Category Archives: President Nicolás Maduro

The Balkanization of South America and the Role of Fifth Columns Throughout the World

During the recent meeting in Caracas of the Venezuelan Presidential Economic Advisory Commission, in mid-June 2018, President Maduro said something extremely interesting, but also extremely disturbing, nonetheless highly important for the region to be aware of. Mr. Maduro mentioned Yugoslavia, the foreign induced local conflicts, the breakup and dismemberment of Yugoslavia, starting with the “Ten Days War” on Slovenia in 1991, the Croatian War (1991-95); the Bosnia War (1992-95); the Kosovo War (1998-99), culminating with the Clinton induced 69-day NATO bombing of Kosovo, under then European NATO leader Wesley Clark (today the Repentant – in retrospect it’s easy to be sorry), pretending to save the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian Milosevic’s atrocities. How Milosevic served as a patsy for the imperial forces is another story.

All of this would not have been possible without a decade long preparation by several Fifth Columns infiltrated and trained in and outside of Yugoslavia, the only country in Europe that in the 1980s and 90s flourished, with general well being above that of the average Europeans, who were suffering recessions and increasing inequality, the beginning of xenophobia in the age of nascent neoliberalism. There was no extreme poverty in Yugoslavia, but prosperity without excesses for everybody. There was economic growth under a loose Mao-model socialism which could, of course, not be allowed to persist, lest it might serve the world as an example. Besides the breakup of Yugoslavia into chaos was needed to create mini-states that are in conflict with each other, some of them still today, and that could be ‘accommodated’ against a hefty ‘fee’, of course, to accept the installation of NATO bases ever an inch closer to Moscow’s door step.

Well, Mr. Maduro saw and sees it clearly. History repeats itself all too often, especially when it comes in the form of western neoliberal-neofascist atrocities, as people’s memories are dulled with lie-propaganda. In fact, there is hardly any real news, only ‘fake news’ in the western mainstream media. Mr. Maduro envisions that “their” plan for Latin America is similar to what “they” did to Yugoslavia. He is probably right. All signs point into this direction.

A pact between Colombia and NATO, a so-called “Security Cooperation Agreement” was first signed in June 2013 but prepared way before. Records of first communications to this effect, by Juan Manual Santos, then President of Columbia and Peace Laureate in 2016 for his traitorous Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC (vaya-vaya! Doesn’t this speak volumes by itself?), can be traced back to early 2012.

President Hugo Chavez was the first one to warn his Latin American partners of the imminent clandestine infiltration of NATO into South America. Nobody listened. Today it’s a fact, too late to fight against. NATO troops are occupying gradually all seven American military bases in Colombia. They are just simply converting from US to NATO bases – sounds more palatable than US bases – for sure. In the minds of unfortunately still most uninformed or mal-informed people, NATO stands for security. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – in South America. What an oxymoron! Well, it is the same ‘security’ farce as is NATO in Afghanistan and bombing the Middle East.

Venezuela is full with Fifth Columnists. They are the ones that facilitate the highly speculative and inflationary manipulation from Miami of the black-market US dollar rate in the streets of Caracas; they are the ones that emulate the food shortages in Chile 1973, successfully disappearing duly paid-for imported merchandise, mostly food and medical supplies, ending up as smuggle-ware in Colombia, leaving empty supermarket shelves in Venezuela. All meant to instigate people to stand up against their government.

So far, this strategy has failed bitterly. On 20 May 2018, President Maduro has been overwhelmingly re-elected, under the most internationally observed elections the world has ever experienced, and the result was “the cleanest, most democratic elections we have witnessed in our history of worldwide 92 election observations”. So said the US-based Carter Institute.

Yet, the Fifth Columnists are relentless. Worldwide. They are immersed in the government apparatus, institutions, military, police – even Parliament and very important in the financial system, possible in the central bank. They “allow”, or rather promote, the manipulation of the US-dollar black market, causing sky-rocketing inflation and lack of food and medicine on supermarket shelves. They disrupt electricity, internet and water services. The approach is similar in every country that refuses to bend to the empire’s dictate. In Russia, Iran, China, Syria, South Sudan, possibly even in Cuba they are in control of the financial system – that’s also how they are easily being financed, through the dollar-based monetary fraud of the west, to which most countries still have some links – fortunately every day less.

Take Russia, the Central Bank is still largely run by the Fifth Columnists, whose ‘chief’ is Putin’s just recently re-appointed Prime-Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, an arch-Atlantist. The structure of the Russian Central Bank is even today mainly a remnant of the Russian Reserve Bank, designed by the FED after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the help of the UN-masked Bretton Woods crooks, the IMF, World Bank.

Similarly, part of the masked international promoters of instability, are the Bretton Woods regional associates, the so-called regional development banks, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB) and their sub-regional cohorts. In the nineties, the Gang was joined by WTO (the World Trade Organization). And here they are, the world’s three most hated international UN-backed financial and trade organizations, IMF, World Bank and WTO. All three are promoting fundamentalist “free-marketeering” across the globe, especially throughout the southern hemisphere (though Greece and southern Europe do not escape), indebting and enslaving countries to the western corporate oligarchs. All well-structured to control the world’s financial system – so as to march towards world hegemony of a One World Global Economy. We are almost there, though not quite yet. There is always hope. Man’s last shred to hang on to life is HOPE. And only Man can translate hope into reality. So, as long as we have life, it’s not too late.

Why is it so difficult, say, impossible to get rid of them, the Fifth Columnists, the vermin of any unaligned political system? Why did President Putin re-assign Medvedev as his PM?  Mr. Putin knows that he supports a network of Atlantist oligarchs that seek nothing more than to ‘putsch’ him, Mr. Putin, and ultimately to destroy the rather egalitarian, though capitalist-based, economic system Russia has enjoyed for the last almost 20 years, becoming self-sufficient in agriculture, food, industry, high-tech science, pharmaceuticals. Russia has developed herself into an exemplary “Resistance Economy”, ready to be emulated by any western-named ‘rogue’ state that is sick and tired of the Empires boots and bombs and forced ‘democracies’ through ‘regime change’.

There are many western countries that just wait for a leader, one that moves head-on. Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, are shining examples. They are gradually escaping the yoke of the dollar-dominated western economy.

So, why are countries like Russia, Iran and maybe Venezuela afraid to get rid of their Fifth Columnists? For fear of a civil war, of a blood bath? Yes, we have seen the violent unrest they caused in preparation of the two major democratic elections in Venezuela in the last 12 months, the National Constituent Assembly (30 July 2017) and the Presidential Elections on 20 May 2018, when altogether close to 200 people died. The media immediately blamed the death on police and military oppression and violence but the only armed protesters were those armed and funded by Washington, and responsible for more than 80% of the death. Chavistas cheered for their Government with their bare fists.

The question remains in the room – why does Mr. Putin not get rid of them, the Fifth Columnists?  Would they cause a civil war?   It seems to me they wouldn’t have sufficient supporters in Russia, but they could disrupt the internal economy, as the Russian internal financial systems, especially private banking, is still in the hands of these Atlantists. They are also in China, but it appears that President Xi Jinping has better control of them.

How about Iran? Why are they still able to hold on to and fight for ‘western deals’; i.e., the upholding of the Nuclear Deal that Trump has stepped out from and now is sanctioning Iran ‘with the most severe sanctions the world has ever seen’, sounding similar to what he said to Mr. Kim Jong-un, the ‘Little Rocket Man’, with whom Trump then made peace a few weeks later?  Or something like it. One never knows with the Donald what the meaning of Trump’s trumpeting is, other than screwing up alliances and creating physical and sociopsychological chaos. He is also threatening European corporations, mostly oil companies, with heavy sanctions if they dare maintain their contracts with Iran.

Many cave in. Among them, the French-UK owned Total, Italy’s Eni and Saras, Spain’s Repsol and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum. In the case of Total, according to the director of the Venezuelan branch, instead of filling their contracts with US-“fracking” oil, as Trump would expect, they are negotiating with Russia, to fulfill their obligations in Europe and elsewhere. “We cannot trust Brussels to fend for us, therefore we have to fend for ourselves”, the Total representative said.

Iran doesn’t really need the Europeans to buy their oil. Europe constitutes only about 20% of the Iranian hydrocarbon market – an amount easily taken up by China. The same with other European corporations that may choose similar ways of self-protection – cutting ties with Iran – like the Peugeot-Citroen automobile giant. Iran doesn’t need them. That these sanctions and EU corporate reactions to the US sanctions, are causing hardship and unemployment in Iran is just western propaganda, a vast exaggeration, at worst a temporary affair. As Mr. Rouhani said, we might go through a short period of difficulties but will recover rapidly by becoming self-sufficient. And that’s true. Iran is well embarked on their “Economy of Resistance”, aiming at self-sufficiency through import-substitution and orienting themselves towards eastern markets.

In fact, Iran is already part of the Eurasian Economic Community and will soon become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  So why can Iran not get rid of their Fifth Columnists? This is a question I can only answer with “fear from bloody civil unrest, prompting possibly western military intervention”.

Back to Venezuela, it could be similar fears that prevent the Maduro Government from taking drastic actions, like declaring a temporary state of emergency and drastic measures of de-dollarization to stop inflation and speculation, and strengthen the local currency, the Bolivar, by backing it with their internationally accepted cryptocurrency, the Petro.

On 20 May 2018, six million Venezuelan’s mostly Chavistas, voted overwhelmingly for President Maduro and his Government, a 68% majority, representing a solid block of people supporters. If you have the choice between an artificially made-to-starve population and a crumbling what used to be a solid block of 6 million Chavistas behind you but gradually disappearing because of lacking actions by the government, what do you do? Perhaps the only way is to economically isolate the Fifth Columnists or Atlantists, despite their apparent control of the economic system. What Atlantists are actually controlling is the dollar-based economy. Quitting the dollar-base, they may become rather powerless.

Venezuela faces a dire dilemma: Die or be killed. Venezuela has already started moving out of the dilemma, with the creation of the totally dollar-detached Petro, the government controlled blockchain currency based on hydrocarbons and precious minerals. Today, Venezuela imports about 70% of their food, and guess from where?  You guessed right – from the US of A. Thus, de-dollarization at first sight is a challenge.

Therefore, a massive diversification of imports, and efforts to become food self-sufficient, is in the order. Venezuela has the agricultural potential to become 100% food self-sufficient. In the meantime, Russia, China and other Eurasian countries will substitute. Venezuela may apply for SCO membership. Why not? After all, China has already about 50 billion dollars’ worth of investments in Venezuela, mostly in hydrocarbons, and just declared making another 5-billion-dollar equivalent loan to refurbish the Venezuelan petrol industry. China and Russia have big stakes in Venezuela, an excellent defense strategy. Now, Venezuela’s membership in the SCO would be another big step away from the dollar economy.

The Balkanization of Latin America is already happening. When Mr. Maduro referred to the 7 US bases in neighboring Colombia, aka, now NATO bases, with a porous 1,500 km (out of a total of 2,000 km) uncontrollable jungle border with Venezuela, and even open and welcoming borders with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, he said it all. It will be easy to suffocate any uprising – NATO will do it, by now the generally accepted world police, as generally accepted as the recently intact, totally unelected and self-appointed world government, the G7. They are now crumbling, thank heaven for Mr. Trump’s egocentric pathology, his “Let’s make America Great Again”; and thanks to Mr. Putin’s non-intervening but strategic sideline observance.

Will Trump continue to provide majority support for NATO? He recently warned the Europeans to contribute their share; i.e., increasing their NATO contribution to 2% of their GDP – or else. Well, what is “else”?  Reducing NATO, an enormous cost to the US?  And counting on the CIA-trained and NED-funded destabilizing insurgents (NED = National Endowment for Democracy, a state department financed “regime change’ and “democratization” NGO) throughout the world? Insurgents in alliance with the local Atlantists? Will this be enough in a rapidly changing international monetary and payment system?

The US scheme for Balkanizing Latin America, and by extension the world, is as porous as the 1,500 km long tropical forest border between Colombia and Venezuela. The hegemony of the dollar-economy hangs in the balance. Only drastic actions by victimized but courageous countries, like Venezuela, Iran and Russia can break the balance and destroy the western monetary hegemony.

Venezuela: Towards an Economy of Resistance

The Government of Venezuela called an international Presidential Economic Advisory Commission, 14-16 June, 2018 to debate the current foreign injected economic disturbances and seeking solutions to overcome them. I was privileged and honored to be part of this commission. Venezuela is literally being strangled by economic sanctions, by infiltrated elements of unrest, foreign trained opposition leaders, trained to disrupt distribution of food, pharmaceutical and medical equipment. Much of the training and disturbance in the country is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an “NGO” that receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department to “spread democracy” and provoke “regime change” around the world, by boycotting and undermining the democratic processes of sovereign nations that refuse to bend under the yoke of the empire and its ‘allies’ — meaning vassals, afraid to stand up for inherent human values, and instead dance spinelessly to the tune of the murderous North American regime and its handlers.

Imagine, Venezuela has by far the world’s largest known reserves in hydrocarbon under her territory. more than 300 billion barrels of petrol, vs. 266 billion barrels, the second largest, of Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is a neighbor, just across the Caribbean, of the United States’ arsenal of refineries in Texas. It takes about 3 to 4 days shipping time from Venezuela to the Texan refineries, as compared to 40-45 days from the Gulf States, from where the US imports about 60% of its oil to be shipped through the high-risk Iran controlled Strait of Hormuz. And on top of this, Venezuela, is a socialist country defending the rights of the working class, fostering solidarity, human rights and sheer human values, so close to the borders of an abject neoliberal and increasing militarized greed-driven dictatorship, pretending untouchable ‘exceptionalism’. Daring to stand up against the threats of boots and bombs from the North, is simply intolerable for Washington.

A real foreign imposed economic crisis is in full swing. Venezuela’s black money market is manipulated by Twitter mainly from Miami and occasionally corrected from Colombia, depending on the availability from Venezuela stolen contraband, offered to better-off cross-border customers. This is missing merchandise on Venezuela’s supermarket shelves. It’s imported merchandise – mostly food and medical supplies – fully paid by the government. This has nothing to do with Venezuela being broke and unable of paying for needed imports. The media which propagate such slander are criminal liars, typical for western “journalism”. It is merchandise stolen, captured at the ports of entry by US trained gangs and deviated as smuggle-ware mostly to Colombia, the new NATO country. The scheme is a carbon copy of what happened in 1973 in Chile, orchestrated by the CIA to bring the Allende Government to fall. People have a short memory – or they like to forget – to keep implementing their disastrous neoliberal agenda.

The big difference though is that Chile’s socialist government was then barely 3 years old, whereas Hugo Chavez, who brought and solidified socialism to Venezuela, was elected in 1998, some 20 years ago. Chavismo has survived relentless attacks, including the Washington induced failed coup on 11 April 2002. A month ago, on 20 May 2018, Presinet Nicolas Maduro was overwhelmingly re-elected with 68% – with a solid block of 6 million Venezuelans, who withstood constant attacks, physical violence, foreign induced slander propaganda, empty supermarket shelves, at times sky-rocketing inflation. But this solid socialism is a basis the empire cannot so easily sway its way.

However, Venezuela is in a State of Emergency. A State of Emergency, exacerbated by NATO newly stationed on 7 US military bases throughout Colombia, and by a 2,200 km border with Venezuela, of which about 1,500 km is a porous jungle, difficult to control. Accordingly, State of Emergency measures ought to be taken. Fast. Among them: de-dollarization of Venezuela’s economy, diversification of imports and an ardent strive towards food autonomy, as well as import-substituting industrial, pharmaceutical and medical production. Today, Venezuela imports about 70% of her food, though the country has the capacity, arable land and human resources-wise, to become self-sufficient.

As Mr. Putin said already two years ago, the sanctions were the best thing that happened to Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. It forced the new Russia to reorganize her agricultural sector, as well as to rebuilding her defunct industrial arsenal and become a scientific vanguard, all of which has happened since 2000 under the leadership of President Putin. For the last three years, Russia has been the world’s largest wheat exporter and has one of the world’s most modern industrial parks, and cutting edge scientific learning and development institutions.

Venezuela has similar potentials. Venezuela also has solid allies in Russia, China and Iran – and indeed in the entire Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an association of currently 8 members, including China, Russia and India, comprising close to half the globe’s population with one-third of the global GDP. Venezuela has already started decoupling from the dollar, by launching the world’s first government owned and controlled cryptocurrency, the hydrocarbon and mineral backed Petro which has already been accepted internationally — foremost by China, Russia, Turkey and the Eurozone.

Despite the Yankee boot on her neck, Venezuela has demonstrated the audacity to launch a dollar-independent incorruptible cryptocurrency that is slated to become a new world reserve currency, especially as other countries are having similar plans; i.e., Iran, Russia, China, India, to name just a few, and as the dollar is rapidly losing ground as the world’s major reserve asset. In the last 20 years the dollar has lost from a worldwide 90% reserve-security to less than 60% today, a trend that continues, especially as hydrocarbon trade is increasingly detached from the dollar and carried out in local currencies, gold-convertible Chinese yuan, rubles and now also the Venezuelan Petro.

This is a heavy blow to the dollar. Though, it isn’t enough. As long as the dollar is still a major player in Venezuela’s economy, the battle and related hardship goes on. Radical measures are in order. This is all the more difficult, since Venezuela, like Russia, Iran and most other non-obedient countries, are heavily infested with disastrous and destructive Fifth Column elements which are primarily controlling or manipulating the financial sectors. But the east is full with successful examples on how to detach from the fraud and greed-driven western monetary system. It is a simple model of “Resistance Economy” — local production for local markets with local money through local public banks that work for the local economy. China followed this example until she reached food- health- education and shelter self-sufficiency around the mid-1980s, when Beijing started opening up to the world, including the west, but with primary trade focus on ‘friendly’ nations. The Russian example is mentioned above, and Iran is now following her own track of “Resistance Economy”.

An Economy of Resistance is also applicable for Venezuela. It is a matter of urgency and a question of political will and perseverance. President Maduro, his Cabinet, as well as the solid and broad-based socialism in solidarity of over 6 million citizens will prevail.

Tatuy TV: A Revolutionary Munitions Factory

Logo commemorating Tatuy TV’s tenth anniversary

With a trajectory of over 10 years, Tatuy Televisión Comunistaria is a reference in Venezuela and abroad, producing a variety of content which is essential for everyone looking to understand and follow events in Venezuela. In this interview we talked to two of its members, Juan Lenzo and Iris Rodríguez, about the history of Tatuy TV, how it’s organized, how they see the role of community media in the context of the Bolivarian Revolution. We also talked about the series “Chávez the Radical”, one of the more recent projects by Tatuy TV.

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Ricardo Vaz:  Tatuy TV recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. How did it all begin?

Tatuy TV:  Tatuy TV was formally created in August 2007. But we had already been working since 2006, out of political motivations. We are a group of young revolutionaries from Mérida trying to make use of communication/media as a tool for political struggle.

Our project started off as a traveling cine-foro (cinema-forum). We would travel to different communities in Mérida, show a film, and then have a discussion with the people. Out of this work, which lasted for months, came the idea of a TV station. So a group of 14 people gathered around this project and became the founding members of Tatuy TV. These people came from social movements, some were journalists, AV producers, revolutionary militants, we had many different backgrounds.

RV: So you go ahead and launch a TV station?

TTV: We kicked off the project for the TV station in 2007. To broadcast on television in Venezuela one has to apply for a permit to broadcast in the radio-electric spectrum, which naturally belongs to the Venezuelan state. We started this process in 2007 but it wasn’t until 2012 that our request was approved and Tatuy TV went on the air as channel 48 in the spectrum.

What did we do between 2007 and 2012? Normally a TV station that’s not on the air doesn’t do much. But we had a lot to do! First of all we had to train ourselves, both in terms of the technical aspects and the conceptual, political/ideological ones. We also went on with the cine-foro activities, interacting with communities, taking part in community and political organization tasks, as well as gearing up for what was coming once the station was up and running.

RV: But were you already producing content?

TTV: Tatuy was born with the interview we did with the singer Manu Chao in 2006. That was the first production out of Tatuy. During these first years we did not produce much because we were still learning, but there was already some audiovisual production that essentially from 2009-2010 started to become more regular. And we also found ways to distribute content on the web, through Youtube and social media, which allowed us to distribute our content before our station went live.

RV: And then the TV channel went live in 2012?

TTV: That’s another story, and a tragic one! We started broadcasting on June 14, 2012, thanks to an endowment from RED TV through the Cuba-Venezuela agreement. But we were on the air for only one and a half to two years, because we had constant, and suspicious, technical problems with transmission.

Our first serious technical problem was before the presidential elections of October 7, 2012, which Chávez won. Tatuy’s signal went down for several days. At the time we managed to organize, solve the technical issues, buy new equipment, and with the help of RED TV, which is a state company that services public and community media, we went back on the air.

Then Chávez died and in the April 2013 elections, when Maduro was running, we suffered another sabotage. We recovered once more, and later during the guarimbas (violent street protests) in 2014 we lost the signal for good. From that point on we could not recover, we could not guarantee the technical stability of the station to go on broadcasting.

RV: Did this force you to rethink Tatuy TV’s mission?

TTV: Yes, at this moment we asked ourselves: what are we going to do? Because we did not have the resources to solve these technical problems. Even though the state has a policy of supporting community media, the support towards Tatuy was never reliable, despite the state having ample resources to ensure that an experiment like this one can go on.

This forced us to think about our vision for Tatuy. We knew that we had to keep producing content, to keep training ourselves, and to continue taking part in social and political struggles. And we understood that Tatuy is not an end in itself but an instrument of struggle. Therefore we started thinking and discussing, that if we conceive of the TV channel as a cannon that fires content, then let us reinvent ourselves and become a munitions factory.

In other words, we create content that is then fired by other cannons. That’s more or less the logic that we’ve followed in recent years now that we are no longer on the air. But this way we’ve had a bigger reach and a bigger impact, which has allowed us to place our content, our ideas, in community media, not just in Venezuela but also throughout Latin America, as well as in Venezuelan public media, where we have a chance of reaching a wider audience.

So in some sense this crisis ended up being a gift. It was a crisis that was enough to put a fledgling community station like Tatuy out of business, and, in fact, this has happened to almost all community media in Venezuela, which are struggling, broken, practically vanished. What allowed us to survive was this understanding of our role. And furthermore we did not want to become a private medium, where there’s an owner calling the shots, paying salaries. Rather this is a militant space.

RV: Let’s talk about the role of the media. It’s easy enough to understand it for private media, and the same can be said for state media. But what’s the role of community media, speaking of Tatuy TV in particular?

TTV: This has been a topic of constant debate, community media and their role. We have to go back to the origins of community media, which appear as expressions of concrete struggles, and not the other way around. At a certain moment the idea of a community medium was flipped on its head and fetishized, so first you created the outlet and then you went out to look for a struggle and a community. This inverted process hollowed out community media and many of them became private companies, with advertising revenues, salaries, titles, hierarchical separation of tasks (e.g. someone responsible for collecting cables, someone dedicated to cleaning, etc). They would also have a director, and quite often a given political backer behind the outlet, like a mayor or an MP.

Chavismo in Venezuela, having protagonist and participatory democracy as a premise, has tried to create many different organizational spaces. There have been lots of efforts, some successful and others not so much. But the goal has always been to strengthen this idea of protagonist and participatory democracy not as the end in itself, but as a stepping stone towards what Chávez proposed as the communal state. Therefore in principle a community medium should be charged with collaborating in this process of jumping from protagonist and participatory democracy to the communal state, to popular power, or what the classicists call the dictatorship of the proletariat.

These are then the tasks that a community outlet should embrace. We at Tatuy are very clear about our role. Tatuy is a weapon of communicational struggle, in the media and outside, with the goal of deepening the revolutionary process and building socialism as an historical project. This is our mission. If Tatuy does not fulfill this, and does not contribute towards this, then it ceases to make sense and we should look for different means of struggle.

Covering the May 20 presidential elections (Photo: Tatuy TV)

RV: How does Tatuy TV operate in terms of resources?

TTV: For us the most important “source” is voluntary work. Many of us work for the state (and right now the salaries are very low!), and the rest of our militant work is dedicated to Tatuy. There is a small group of people that currently work full time at Tatuy, either because they’re studying or looking for work. But that’s the basic principle, voluntary work and militancy. Another source of revenue for Tatuy are the contributions from these members that have jobs, as well as donations from comrades and collaborators.

We have also had projects financed by the state, but always in exchange for something. In other words, we are paid something in exchange for producing a series of contents, or workshops, or a community organizing process, etc. And we’ve produced lots of stuff with resources for example from the social responsibility fund of CONATEL (state telecommunications company), or from the federal government council, or from the Ministry of Communications, but always in exchange for something. Nothing has been gifted to us. But one thing that is very clear to us is that we have never accepted commercial advertising as a source of revenue, because we believe that amounts to surrendering principles. It would mean embracing a logic that would question the nature and political orientation of Tatuy.

Therefore that is how Tatuy has survived, with a militant, consistent and independent editorial line. Many people ask us: who is Tatuy’s “political godfather”? Which minister, or vice-minister, or MP, is behind Tatuy?

RV: In some sense it’s Chávez himself!

TTV: Yes, exactly, it’s Chávez and nobody else! That’s our response. Who is your godfather? Chávez! Everything that has been built, the conditions that allowed for a project like Tatuy, and our vision, they all emanate from Chávez’s legacy and the project of building socialism that he proposed.

RV: In a private outlet, like you said, there’s someone who is the director and someone charged with picking up cables. Is there a rotation of tasks in Tatuy?

TTV: Yes. There’s no boss here, nobody is going to tell you that you need to pick up the equipment or clean up, and, of course, we’re not going to hire someone to do those things. If we are looking to construct a new model, than it has to materialize in our practice, not just remain in speeches. So we started with basic things, rotating tasks like watching over the space, cleaning, putting away equipment, making sure everything is in good condition, ensuring that the spaces are well kept.

But moreover, nowadays in the current crisis situation, a new interesting experiment has emerged. In order for our material needs not to interfere with our work, here everyone needs to know how to cook! Every day someone is responsible for cooking for everybody else, so that the others can focus on work, and this is rotated. The same thing applies to buying food supplies, everyone has their turn.

And the same applies to the tasks that are more specific for a media outlet. There isn’t a single person in charge of taking photos because they are the ones that do it best. Here if someone doesn’t know how to use a camera they have to learn, just like they have to learn how do video editing and motage. Everyone needs to be an integral member, as well as develop politically. So there isn’t a division of labor, certainly not between manual and intellectual labor.

RV: How many members does Tatuy have at the moment?

TTV: We are 14, and 9 are women. That’s also something interesting, the fact that many comrades from revolutionary feminist movements have joined Tatuy, and we have looked to consider and develop awareness on the issue of the “care economy”. In other words, when we assign tasks we always need to be mindful of ensuring our collective well-being. How we take care of ourselves, our physical, intellectual and emotional integrity, so we can commit to our revolutionary work in the best possible conditions.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we look to distribute work as fairly as possible, without any division of manual and intellectual labor, there are tendencies. There are people that feel more keen and comfortable, for example, doing photographic work, and therefore we also create the conditions so they can become good photographers.

Preparing to interview Venezuelan writer and historian Luis Britto García (Photo: Tatuy TV)

RV: Is there any relation between the work at Tatuy and the other jobs members might have?

TTV: That’s another interesting point. For example, I (Juan) am currently teaching political economy at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. This task, of organizing a syllabus and teaching, was given to me by Tatuy. In other words, part of my responsibility at Tatuy is also to reach these spaces like universities. Similarly another member of Tatuy is in charge of audiovisual coordination at Unearte.

So then Tatuy has an impact on this front, which allows us to define study programs, methods, community programs. We have managed to increase our range of activities as a medium, and reach new spaces of struggle. That is to say that our impact is not just in producing audiovisual content but also in these other spaces, like classrooms, where we can socialize the knowledge and ideas that are being generated at Tatuy.

RV: In practical terms, how do you decide which contents to produce, and how tasks are distributed for each project?

TTV: Every January we shut ourselves here, and sometimes we overdo it. That has been part of our learning curve, sometimes we would be halfway through the year still working on a plan! But in recent years we have been much more disciplined and precise in elaborating a yearly plan. So every January we sit down and discuss. We take stock of the political developments of the previous year and do a prospective analysis: what do we expect from the upcoming year?

Based on that we do a political analysis of the current context, in terms of political relations, popular subjectivity, and from there we start thinking about production lines. And we also evaluate previous productions, what impact they had, which should continue, which should be dropped, which should be picked up again, and as a result of all that we draw the editorial policy for the year. This policy in turn should be adjusted to a document that outlines the editorial framework of Tatuy, the broad strokes of our mission.

RV: We have to ask: how did you come up with the idea of “Chávez the Radical“?

TTV: The starting point is the fact that Tatuy and its militants are political sons and daughters of Chávez. Our militancy, our process of political development, with the exception of a couple of older comrades, happens with Chávez. The thing is that, at first sight, Chávez looks like an ideologically eclectic figure, that one day meets with businessmen and the next day expropriates a company. So apparently he is a contradictory figure.

But we have an assessment, which we explained in an article that outlined our vision of “Chávez the Radical”, that essentially Chávez’s political trend as time went on was towards radicalisation. This doesn’t discard the fact that at certain moments he had to take a step back, make tactical alliances, negotiate in order to avoid conflicts with powerful actors that could not be confronted at the time. Nevertheless Chávez’s political trend was always towards radicalisation.

This radicalizing trajectory is actually the subject of our latest episode. Chávez kicks off his project convinced of the possibility of a “humane capitalism”, third-way politics. But after the coup in 2002, after the attacks from the US empire, Chávez said “I am forced to declare the anti-imperialist character of the revolution”. And following that, faced with the dynamics of class struggle in the Venezuelan political reality, Chávez sees it necessary to define a path, and the closest or more realistic way to guarantee the well-being of the people, was socialism. Therefore it was always a path of radicalisation. If one looks at Chávez’s speeches, right before falling ill, these are the clearest, deepest, most radical and most revolutionary speeches he produced.

RV: What is then the goal of this series?

TTV: Simply put, it’s to rescue and portray Chávez in this process of radicalisation, this radical Chávez, which from our point of view is the authentic Chávez. Chávez’s radicalism is not an attribute, an accessory, it’s immanent, inherent to the figure of Chávez and his political project. That’s how Chávez was. So this is an homage to Chávez, to the radical Chávez, and beyond that it’s a tool for our struggle, because it allows us to take part in the ideological battle inside the Bolivarian Revolution having Chávez’s thought and legacy as the starting point.

RV: In the current context of economic war and imperialist aggression, there’s a debate about the positioning of the media with respect to criticism. How does Tatuy manage this need to remain critical while at the same the tendency is to close ranks?

TTV: For us it’s clear that there are two enemies in every revolution. The direct, obvious enemy, starting with the US empire and the traditional capitalist right-wing forces. The bourgeoisie, as a class, is the historical, classical, open, obvious enemy. But there’s another enemy that’s typical of revolutionary processes and which emerges from within, which Chávez compared with this political figure of the Leopard1 (“gato-pardismo”), which is what we call reformism.

Tatuy believes the Venezuelan revolution has two main enemies, imperialism and the national bourgeoisie on one hand, and reformism on the other. These are two permanent battlefronts, chavismo cannot avoid it. Chavismo fortunately is not a homogeneous, obedient mass. It’s a space of conflict, where multiple visions are expressed; in short, it’s a space of class struggle. Therefore above all we recognize that any revolution in Venezuela from here on out will go through chavismo. That’s one of Chávez’s great achievements, that there is a critical mass that accepted socialism as an historical and emancipatory project. This is no small feat.

So we insert ourselves in that arena of struggle. We are chavistas and we consider that inside chavismo there’s a struggle to be waged. There are reformist sectors, capitalist sectors, popular revolutionary sectors, and the struggle is to conquer hegemony inside chavismo, to conquer the subjectivity of chavismo. And that’s the battle that we embrace. We critically assume the revolutionary political construction, but always, without a doubt, inside chavismo.

• First published in Investig’action

  1. This political term refers to the sentence “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same” said by one of the characters of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s book “The Leopard”, later made into a film. In a revolutionary context this reference is targeted at those that only look to make superficial changes, leaving the existing power structures untouched.

Why Venezuela and Syria Cannot Fall

Despite tremendous hardship which the Venezuelan people are having to face, despite the sanctions and intimidation from abroad, President Nicolás Maduro has won a second six-year term.

Two weeks ago, at the Venezuelan embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where I addressed several leaders of East African left-wing opposition, an acting Charge d’ Affaires, Jose Avila Torres, declared: “People of Venezuela are now facing similar situation as the Syrian people.”

True. Both nations, Venezuela and Syria, are separated by a tremendous geographical distance, but they are united by the same fate, same determination and courage.

During the Spanish Civil War, Czech anti-fascist fighters, volunteers in the International Brigades, used to say: “In Madrid we are fighting for Prague”. Madrid fell to Franco’s fascists in October 1939. Prague had been occupied by German troops several months earlier, in March 1939. It was the blindness and cowardice of the European leaders, as well as the support which the murderous fascist hordes received from populations of all corners of the continent, which led to one of the greatest tragedies in modern history – a tragedy which only ended on May 9, 1945, when the Soviet troops liberated Prague, defeating Nazi Germany and de facto saving the world.

More than 70 years later, the world is facing another calamity. The West, mentally unfit to peacefully end its several centuries long murderous reign over the planet – a reign that has already taken several hundreds of millions of human lives – is flexing its muscle and madly snapping in all directions, provoking, antagonizing and even directly attacking countries as far apart as North Korea (DPRK), China, Iran, Russia, Syria and Venezuela.

What is happening now is not called fascism or Nazism, but it clearly is precisely that, as the barbaric rule is based on a profound spite for non-Western human lives, on fanatical right-wing dogmas which are stinking of exceptionalism, and on the unbridled desire to control the world.

Many countries that refused to yield to brutal Western force were recently literally leveled with the ground, including Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. In many other ones, the governments were overthrown by direct and indirect interventions, as well as deceit, as was the case in the mightiest country in Latin America – Brazil. Countless “color”, “umbrella” and other “revolutions” as well as “springs” have been sponsored by Washington, London and other Western capitals.

But the world is waking up, slowly but irreversibly, and the fight for survival of our human race has already begun.

Venezuela and Syria are, unquestionably, at the front line of the struggle.

Against all odds, bleeding but heroically erect, they stand against the overwhelmingly mightier force, and refuse to give up.

President Hugo Chavez

“Here no one surrenders!” shouted Hugo Chavez, already balding from chemotherapy, dying of cancer which many in Latin America believe, was administered to him from the United States. His fist was clenched and heavy rain was falling on his face. Like this, died one of the greatest revolutionaries of our time. But his revolution survived, and is marching on!

I am well aware of the fact that many of my readers are from the West. Somehow, particularly in Europe, I cannot explain, anymore, what it really is to be a revolutionary. Recently I spoke at a big gathering of ‘progressive’ teachers, which took place in Scandinavia. I tried to fire them up, to explain to them what monstrous crimes the West has been committing all over the world, for centuries.

I tried and I failed. When the lights went on, I was drilled by hundreds of eyes. Yes, there was an applause, and many stood up in that fake cliché – a standing ovation. But I knew that our worlds were far apart.

What followed were pre-fabricated and shallow questions about human rights in China, about “Assad’s regime”, but nothing about the collective responsibility of people of the West.

To understand what goes on in Syria and in Venezuela, requires stepping out of the Western mindset. It cannot be understood by selfish minds that are only obsessed with sexuality and sexual orientation, and with self-interest.

There is something essential, something very basic and human that is taking place in both Syria and Venezuela. It is about human pride, about motherland, about love for justice and dreams, about a much better arrangement for the world. It is not petty; in fact, it is huge, and even worth fighting and dying for.

In both places, the West miscalculated, as it clearly miscalculated in such ‘cases’ as Cuba, Russia, China, Iran, DPRK.

Patria no se vende!”, they have been saying in Cuba, for decades – “Fatherland is not for sale!”

Profit is not everything. Personal gain is not everything. Selfishness and tiny but inflated egos are not everything. Justice and dignity are much more. Human ideals are much more. To some people they are. Really, they are, trust me – no matter how unreal it may appear in the West.

Syria is bleeding, but it refused to surrender to the terrorism injected by the West and its allies. Aleppo was turned into a modern-day Stalingrad. At a tremendous cost, the city withstood all vicious assaults, it managed to reverse the course of the war, and as a result, it saved the country.

Venezuela, like Cuba in the early 90’s, found itself alone, abandoned, spat at and demonized. But it did not fall on its knees.

In Europe and North America, analyses of what is happening there have been made “logically” and “rationally”. Or have they, really?

Do people in the West really know what it is like to be colonized? Do they know what the “Venezuelan opposition is”?

Do they know about the consistency of the terror being spread by the West, for centuries and all over Latin America, from such places like the Dominican Republic and Honduras, all the way down to Chile and Argentina?

No, they know nothing, or they know very little, like those Germans who were living right next to the extermination camps and after the war they claimed that they had no idea what that smoke coming up from the chimneys was all about.

There is hardly any country in Central or South America, whose government has not at least been overthrown once by the North, whenever it decided to work on behalf of its people.

And Brazil, last year, became the ‘latest edition’ of the nightmares, disinformation campaigns, ‘fake news’ and coups – being spread with ‘compliments’ from the North, through local ‘elites’.

You see, there is really no point of discussing too many issues with the ‘opposition’ in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba or Bolivia. What has to be said was already pronounced.

What goes on is not some academic discussion club, but a war; a real and brutal civil war.

I know the ‘opposition’ in South American countries, and I know the ‘elites’ there. Yes, of course, I know many of my comrades, the revolutionaries, but I am also familiar with the ‘elites’.

Just to illustrate, let me recall a conversation I once had in Bolivia, with the son of a powerful right-wing senator, who doubled as a media magnate. In a slightly drunken state he kept repeating to me:

We will soon kick the ass of that Indian shit [president of Bolivia, Evo Morales] … You think we care about money? We have plenty of money! We don’t care if we lose millions of dollars, even tens of millions! We will spread insecurity, uncertainty, fear, deficits and if we have to, even hunger… We’ll bleed those Indians to death!

All this may sound ‘irrational’, even directly against their own capitalist gospel. But they don’t care about rationality, only about power. And their handlers from the North will compensate their losses, anyway.

There is no way to negotiate, to debate with these kinds of people. They are traitors, thieves and murderers.

For years and decades, they used the same strategy, betting on the soft-heartedness and humanism of their socialist opponents. They dragged progressive governments into endless and futile debates, then used their own as well as Western media to smear them. If it did not work, they choked their own economies, creating deficits, like in Chile before the 1973 Pinochet’s coup. If that did not work, they’d used terror – naked and merciless. And finally, as the last resort – direct Western interventions.

They are not in it for ‘democracy’ or even for some ‘free market’. They are serving their Western masters and their own feudalist interests.

To negotiate with them is to lose. It is identical with playing the game by their own rules. Because behind them is the entire Western propaganda, as well as financial and military machinery.

The only way to survive is to toughen up, to clench teeth, and to fight. As Cuba has been doing for decades, and yes, as Venezuela is doing now.

This approach does not look ‘lovely’; it is not always ‘neat’, but it is the only way forward, the only way for progress and revolution to survive.

Before Dilma got ‘impeached’ by the pro-Western bunch of corrupt freaks, I suggested in my essay that was censored by Counterpunch but published by dozens of other outlets world-wide, in many languages, that she should send tanks into the streets of Brasilia. I suggested that it was her duty, in the name of the people of Brazil, who voted for her, and who benefited greatly from the rule of her PT.

She did not do it, and I am almost certain that now she is regretting so. Her people are once again getting robbed; they are suffering. And the entire South America is, as a result, in disarray!

Corruption? Mismanagement? For decades and centuries, the people of Latin America were ruled and robbed by the corrupt bandits, who were using their continent as a milking cow, while living in the repulsive opulence of the Western aristocracy. All that was done, naturally, in the name of ‘democracy’, a total charade.

Venezuela is still there – people are rallying behind the government – in terrible pain and half-starving but rallying nevertheless. It is because for many people there, personal interests are secondary. What matters is their country, socialist ideology and the great South American fatherland. Patria grande.

It is impossible to explain. It is not rational, it is intuitive, deep, essential and human.

Those who have no ideology and ability to commit, will not understand. And, frankly, who cares if they will or not.

Hopefully, soon, both Brazil and Mexico – the two most populous nations in Latin America – will vote in new left-wing governments. Things will then change, will become much better, for Venezuela.

Until then, Caracas has to rely on its far-away but close comrades and friends, China, Iran and Russia, but also on its beautiful and brave sister – Cuba.

Evo Morales recently warned that the West is plotting a coup in Venezuela.

Maduro’s government has to survive another few months. Before Brazil is back, before Mexico joins.

It will be a tough, perhaps even bloody fight. But history is not made by weak compromises and capitulations. One cannot negotiate with Fascism. France tried, before WWII, and we all know the results.

The West and its fascism can only be fought, never appeased

When one defends his country, things can never be tidy and neat. There are no saints. Sainthood leads to defeat. Saints are born later, when victory is won and the nation can afford it.

Venezuela and Syria have to be supported and defended, by all means.

These wonderful people, Venezuelans and Syrians, are now bleeding, fighting for the entire non-Western and oppressed world. In Caracas and Damascus, people are struggling, battling and dying for Honduras and Iran, for Afghanistan and West Africa.

Their enemies can only be stopped by force.

In Scandinavia, a Syrian gusano, who lives in the West, who smears president Assad and gets fully compensated for it, challenged me, as well as the Syrian ‘regime’ and Iran, during the Q/A session. I said I refuse to discuss this with him, as even if we were to spend two hours shouting at each other, in public, we would never find any common ground. People like him began the war, and war they should get. I told him that he is definitely paid for his efforts and that the only way for us to settle this is ‘outside’, on the street.

Venezuela and Syria cannot fall. Too much is now at stake. Both countries are presently fighting something enormous and sinister – they are fighting against the entire Western imperialism. It is not just about some ‘opposition’, or even the treasonous elements in their societies.

This is much bigger. This is about the future, about the survival of humanity.

Billions of people in all parts of the world have been closely following the elections in the Bolivarian Republic. There, the people have voted. President Maduro won. He won again. Scarred, bruised, but he won. Once again, socialism defeated fascism. And long live Venezuela, damn it!

Originally published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

The Foundation For International Justice Is Anti-Imperialism

An Anti-Imperialist Mural in Caracas, Venezuela (from Telesur)

The United States has had a policy of imperialism beginning after the Civil War. The US way of war, developed against Indigenous peoples, spread worldwide as the US sought to extend its power through military force, economic dominance and diplomatic hegemony.

Imperialism is driven by what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. identified at the end of his life, the triple evils of racism, capitalism, and militarism. Lenin described imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. Imperialism has justified mass slaughter, resulting in the US killing 20 million people since WW II. The People of the United States must say ‘no’ to imperialism.

Advocacy against imperialism is needed to prevent confusion around US militarism. The US disguises imperialism by attacking so-called “dictatorial” leaders who “use violence against their own people.” This results in Orwellian-phrased “humanitarian” wars – violence by US surrogates inside a country, massive funding to create opposition against a government or economic sanctions that cause widespread suffering.

The propaganda justifying these abuses hides the real intent — expansion of US domination so US corporations can profit from resources and cheap labor under a US-friendly government. People confused by this rhetoric sometimes repeat the propagandistic claims of US imperialists and help justify US intervention.

End US Imperialism (from PopularResistance.org)

Why US Imperialism Must Be Opposed Today

US imperialism is aggressively working on almost every continent through militarism, regime change, corporate trade agreements, economic blockades and creating indebtedness. The destruction of Libya, in an illegal “humanitarian” war, and the destruction of Iraq, in a falsely justified war, where both leaders were brutally assassinated, highlight the necessity of being clearly anti-imperialist.

There are many countries suffering from US imperialism today. Here are just a few:

Syria: Every president since the 1940s has sought to dominate Syria and has had specific plans for regime change. The Syrian conflict, often misdescribed as a civil war, is a war of aggression by the US, Saudi Araba, and Israel. During the George W. Bush administration, documents show plans to undermine the Assad government through terrorism, chaos and other attacks. In 2006, the United States started to finance an external opposition to Assad. In 2007, a plan for regime change in Syria was agreed upon between the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The US began to use “color revolution” tools, organizing opposition in Syria, training citizen journalists and urging an “insurgency.”

During the Arab Spring-era in 2011, arrests of anti-Assad youth in Deraa resulted in protests. The police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, but on the third-day protests turned violent, even though Assad announced the release of the detained youths. The police fought armed protesters, resulting in the deaths of seven police. Protesters torched the courthouse and Baath Party Headquarters. Violent protests continued and escalated and the Syrian government responded with violence.

Robert Ford, the first US ambassador to Syria in five years, marched with the regime change protesters. He traveled through Syria inciting rebellion against Assad, according to this interview with a former CIA agent. He, Ford, had to flee the country out of fear.

The situation escalated into a seven-year war, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, mass displacement, war crimes on all sides and unproven accusations against Syria of using chemical weapons. This week, seventy Syrian tribes declared war on the US at a time when Israel and the US are increasing their military campaigns in Syria.

The US has multiple imperialist interests in Syria. The US would like to close Russia’s Navy base in Tartus, Syria on the Mediterranean. A gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey is competing with one from Iran to Syria. With large finds of methane gas in the coastal waters of Israel and Lebanon, it is likely they also exist in Syrian waters.

Iran: US imperialism in Syria is tied to Iran. As with Syria, domination has been the goal of the US since the 1950s when the CIA engineered a coup that put in place the Shah, a dictator who ruled until the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The US has long sought to control Iran‘s vast oil resources.

The US used the same tools of regime change as in Syria and other countries; e.g., massive funding to build opposition to the government, supporting, building and manipulating protests, economic sanctions, and threats of militarism. These strategies have caused disruption but have failed to undermine the government.

Sanctions and the US violation of the nuclear agreement may backfire against the US as countries are fighting back against them and the US is being isolated in the UN. The US also conducts a false propaganda campaign, with the media playing along, about a nuclear weapons program that never existed and makes false claims of Iran sponsoring terrorism. And, as it did in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Israel is urging war on Iran. This may lead to the US creating a Syrian-like war in Iran, threatening world security.

Venezuela: Another country with vast oil resources, Venezuela has been threatened with regime change, coups and war due to US imperialism that is supported by the elites in the US. The US uses the same regime change tools; e.g., a propagandistic barrage of lies about a “dictatorship”, economic sanctions, high-levels of funding to build opposition, violent protests, terrorism and attempts to foment a civil war.

Venezuela has faced a continuous coup since the election of Hugo Chavez. In 2002, a coup against Chavez was reversed by people’s protests. There has been an economic war since then. Wikileaks’ documents show Hillary Clinton sought to undermine and replace the Chavez-Maduro government. A coup in 2016 was foiled. In 2017, there was an embarrassing failed coup supported by the US. Trump is continuing long-term US policies seeking to dominate Venezuela.

The economic war creates challenges for the Venezuelan government. The US economic war blocks food, medicine, and essentials, while traitors inside Venezuela, from the wealthy class, do the same. These internal traitors even call for sanctions and war. The US falsely claims a humanitarian crisis exists in order to justify intervention to steal the nation’s oil and natural resources.

Sadly, this fools too many people who are not clear on opposing US imperialism, while it also unites many in Venezuela against US imperialism. The US-allied internal traitors admitted to 17 years of crimes in a proposed amnesty law in 2016, when they controlled the National Assembly.

In Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, Colombia plays the role of Israel for the US as the point of the US spear threatening war. Colombia has long-worked with the CIA for regime change in Venezuela. Indeed, Colombia just brought the imperialism military tool, NATO, to Latin America. The US and its allies are looking toward war, making war preparations, conducting military exercises and are calling for a military coup. The world is saying ‘no’ to war against Venezuela as is much of Latin America.

In Venezuela, democratic elections resulted in a landslide victory for President Maduro, which was really a defeat of US imperialism. The election was important as the US, Canada, and the European Union were threatening Venezuela. It was a decisive election for the Bolivarian Revolution, which will continue for now.

And, There Are More: These are three examples of many. In Latin America through non-governmental organizations and US agencies, the US funds oligarchy, opposition to democracy and support for neoliberal policies and has a long history of US coups. In Nicaragua, the same tools of regime change are being used. There has been a US-supported soft coup in Brazil and Honduras.

Coups and militarism are not limited to Latin America. During the Obama era, US coups in Ukraine and attempts in the Middle East occurred. Ukraine deserves special mention as this country, which borders Russia, was a long-term imperial aim of the United States. State Department official Victoria Nuland said the US spent $5 billion to build an opposition to the government and manage a coup. There are now proposals to arm Ukraine against Russia, so the danger is growing.

The dramatic protest against democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 was a US coup spearheaded by violent neo-Nazis. This Obama-era coup was “the most blatant coup in history,” according to the corporate CIA-firm, Stratfor.  The US has taken over their gas industry, putting Joe Biden’s son and a longtime friend of John Kerry on their board, has taken over agriculture, has a former State Department official serving as finance minister, picked their Prime Minister and put in place the US’s “Our Ukraine Insider” president. In the US, media propaganda is constant, focusing on Crimea returning to Russia and demonizing Putin.

While there are more current examples of US imperialism, we will finish with a brief discussion of Africa, where the US seeks to dominate the land, resources, and labor of a continent which holds natural resources critical to 21st Century technology and oil and where $100 billion in US corporate theft occurs annually. Under Obama, AfriCom greatly expanded and the US now has bi-lateral military agreements across the continent, military bases, drone basesSpecial Operations Forces and a military presence in 53 of 54 countries creating an imperial-scale military presence.

The Congo, which has suffered 500 years of European and US imperialism and where four million people have been recently displaced, deserves special focus. The Congo has natural resources more valuable than the entire EU’s GDP. Tech companies violate human rights, such as children as young as seven mining cobalt for lithium batteries.  Africa is shaping up to be the center of 21st Century imperial US wars.

American Imperialism (from Countercurrents.org)

Anti-Imperialism: The Foundation For A Just Foreign Policy

These conflicts are all rooted in resource sovereignty in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Do these countries control their natural wealth or will US imperialism steal it from them? Peace and justice movements must build on a foundation of anti-imperialism and not be fooled by the lies of elected officials, militarists, and the corporate media.

Some will attack those clearest on opposing imperialism. At the Left Forum, a small group criticized long-time US human rights and peace advocate, Ajamu Baraka, for his stance opposing US imperialism in Syria.  The previously unknown group, the “League for the Revolutionary Party”, was made up of a small number of members of the International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America. They showed how those who do not make opposition to imperialism a foundation of their advocacy are easily confused.

They had to misquote Baraka and take his views out of context to justify their attack. By protesting Baraka, they attacked the leader of the Black Alliance for Peace, making their protest racist. They also protested someone who challenged the war party duopoly, as he was the vice presidential nominee of the Green Party. Their protest not only supported US militarism in Syria but sought to weaken the rebuilding of the black peace movement and challenges to the war parties.

If we ground ourselves in anti-imperialism, we will not be as easily misled. We must respect the sovereignty of other nations and support popular struggles without promoting US intervention.

The people of many countries unite in opposition to US imperialism, economic warfare and threats of militarism. It is our job in the United States to act in solidarity with them and say ‘no’ to US imperialism.

Venezuela: Vanguard of a New World

Venezuela is a champion in democracy, in democratic elections, as proven twice within the last twelve months and more than a dozen times since 1999. Never mind that the lunatic west doesn’t want to accept it simply because the west – the US and her handlers – and her European vassals, cannot tolerate a socialist country prospering, one that is so close to the empire’s border and on top of it, loaded with natural riches, like oil and minerals. Venezuela’s economic success could send intellectual “left-wing” shock waves to the dumbed and numbed American populace, with shrapnel ricocheting all the way to blindfolded Europe.

That would be terrible. That’s why Venezuela must be economically strangled, literally, by illegal sanctions, by totally unlawful outside interventions within sovereign Venezuela, by corrupting internal food and medicine distribution, literally buying off bus drivers to stay home rather than driving their assigned routes to take people from home to work and vice-versa; and corrupting truck drivers not to deliver the merchandise, so that supermarket shelves are empty. They can be photographed, to make the world believe that Venezuela is at the brink of collapse. Those who are not too young may recall exactly the same pattern of outside (CIA) interference on the Chilean system in 1973, leading up to the CIA instigated coup that killed the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende and put hard-core neonazi Augusto Pinochet in power. Outside interference, CIA and other State Department funded secret services, was also widely responsible for trying boycotting and influencing the Venezuelan democratic election process. To no avail. They did not succeed.

A similar situation exists with Iran, a mighty powerful nation with a high level of intellect, research, industrial and agricultural potential and – foremost – with a collective mindset that does not want to be trampled by the west, let alone by Washington. Iran is the leader in the Middle East and eventually will be the pillar of stability of the region. No Israel Government would dare to mess with Iran. Netanyahu’s threats are just empty saber-rattling. Iran has also strong and reliable allies, like China and Russia. China is buying the bulk of Iran’s hydrocarbon production and would not stand idle in an Israel-US confrontation with Iran. Hence, Iran doesn’t need to submit to the dictate of Washington. Iran is a sovereign nation, having already embarked on a path of ‘Resistance Economy’, meaning, a gradual decoupling from the western fraudulent dollar-based monetary system. Iran is considering launching a government-owned and managed cryptocurrency which would be immune from western sanctions – same as is the Venezuelan oil-backed Petro.

If Venezuela was allowed by the west to prosper, the people of North America could wake up. And, for example, demand explanations why their government is actually so undemocratic as to interfering in other countries affairs around the world, overthrowing other sovereign governments – killing millions, who do not want to bend to the rules of the US dictator; and at home planting fear through false flags and staged terror acts; i.e., multiple school shootings, sidewalk car rampages (Manhattan) and Marathon bomb attacks (Boston).

Never mind whether the US Presidents behind such terror are called Trump, Obama, Bush, or Clinton – and the list doesn’t end there. One could go way back to find the same pattern of attempted submission through fear, propaganda, acts of terror. They are all pursuing the same sinister agenda, world hegemony at any price.

Venezuela – and Iran for that matter – are in a totally different league. Venezuela voted on 29 July 2017 for the National Constituent Assembly, an elaborate, transparent process to establish a true People’s Parliament. The idea is brilliant, but was, of course, condemned by the west as fraud – because the reigning elite of the west could and will not allow the people to be in power.

When Iran’s President Rouhani was re-elected in May 2017, Washington was happy, believing Rouhani would bend to the rules of the west. He didn’t. In fact, he stood his course, though trying to maintain friendly – and business – relations with the west, but at Iran’s terms. As this doesn’t seem to be possible, specially after Trump’s unilateral stepping out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Nuclear Deal, and re-imposing “the strongest sanctions the world has ever seen”, what is there left, other than decisively detaching from the west and joining the eastern alliances, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is precisely what Venezuela is doing, calling her losses, but moving on to more friendly pastures – and to certainly a more prosperous future.

Western parliaments have become smoke screens for hiding financial dictatorships, and lately worse, police and military oppression for fear people might stand up — which they actually do, right now in France against Macron’s new labor law, intent of stripping workers of their benefits acquired through decades of hard work. Basically, since last February, people take to the streets of Paris, fearless, despite France being the most militarized country of Europe. They are exposed to tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, but do not give up defending not only their labor rights but also defending theirs and the peoples of France’s democratic right of freedom of expression which in most EU countries has died a silent death.

On 20 May 2018 Venezuela held another peaceful and absolutely democratic Presidential Elections, witnessed by international observers from more than 40 countries, including former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and former President of Spain, José Luis Zapatero. They all have confirmed the transparency of the Venezuelan electoral system and called upon the international community to respect the election results. Indeed, the United States as well as Europe could learn a lot from the Venezuelan electoral process and from Venezuelan democracy.

Washington, its European Union vassals and the Organization of American States (OAS), again – what else – condemned the elections as a fraud before they actually took place, urging President Maduro to cancel them (what an abject arrogance!). Similarly, the so-called Lima Group – a collective of 14 Latin American nations – has accused the Maduro Administration of manipulating the elections, declaring the results “illegitimate, also before the ballots were cast. But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center, said: “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Zapatero said at a press conference that the EU, who was invited directly by President Nicolas Maduro to join international election observers, didn’t send delegations because of “prejudice”. Zapatero said, “There is prejudice, and life and political experience consists of banishing prejudices and getting to know the truth firsthand.” He also pointed to the OAS’s double standards against Venezuela: “What are they saying about what’s happening in Brazil and Honduras?” – And allow me to add, “and currently in Nicaragua”?

Correa doubled up, saying, “No one can question the Venezuelan elections… in the world there is no election as monitored as Venezuelan elections.” – The absolute correctness of the Venezuelan election was further confirmed by CEELA, the Latin American Council on Electoral Experts. Mr. Moscoso, the head of CEELA, stated that the CEELA delegation has met with experts and candidates ahead of last Sunday’s [20 May 2018] elections and confirmed “harmony in the electoral process.”

There is no doubt by any member of the high-powered and professional electoral observation delegations that the Venezuelan elections were correct and that Nicolas Maduro has legitimately been re-elected with 68% of the votes for the next 6 years – 2019 to 2025. The “low” turn-out of 54% is blamed by the west on Venezuela for barring the opposition candidates and opposition parties from voting. In fact, the turn-out is “low”, because of the west (EU and US) instigating the opposition to boycotting the elections. Under these circumstances, 54% is a great turnout, especially when compared to the only slightly higher numbers – 55.7% – of   Americans who went to the polls in 2016, when Trump was elected; and 58% in 2012, for Obama’s second term.

It is actually a horrendous shame that we, independent journalists and geopolitical analysts, have to spend time defending the transparency and correctness of the Venezuelan elections and democratic system – the best in the world – in the face of governments where fraud and lies are on their every-day menu and where initiation of conflict and wars – mass killings – is their bread and butter. Yes, bread and butter, because the economy of the United States could not survive without war, and the elite puppets in Europe might be trampled to mulch, if they had not become militarized oppressive police states.

That’s the state of the neoliberal/neofascist world of the 21st Century – defending the honest and correct from accusations by the criminal lying hooligans – is what the west has become, a bunch of mafia states without ethics, where laws are made by white collard criminals for their corporate dominated governments.

There are other reasons why Venezuela has become a vanguard of a new emerging world – a world that is separating itself gradually from the west. Other than China and Russia, Venezuela is among the first countries to abandon the US dollar as trading currency. Caracas has been selling its hydrocarbons to China for gold-convertible Yuan. Venezuela is also the world’s first country to introduce a government controlled, petrol backed cryptocurrency, the Petro which will soon be enhanced by the Petro-Oro, another government-controlled cryptocurrency, based on gold and other minerals.

None of the other privately launched block chain currencies, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, Ripplel, and literally more than 3,000 digital blockchain currencies, have any backing. They can be considered similar to fiat money, highly speculative, lending themselves to money-laundering and other fraud.

When the Petro was launched in March 2018 it attracted presale interests from 133 countries of US$ 5 billion equivalent. The first day presale raised US$ 735 equivalent; impressive record figures indicating a huge interest of the world at large to find an alternative to the US currency dominated western monetary system – the one and only tailored to hand out sanctions, block international monetary transfers and confiscate foreign funds abroad. And this is because all international dollar transactions have to transit through a US bank either in London or in New York.

Without divulging many details about the Petro – for good reasons – President Maduro has praised the Petro as a key weapon in his fight against what he describes as an “economic war” led by the United States. The oil-backed digital cryptocurrency is convertible into: yuan, rubles, Turkish liras and euro – all of which is indicative that the world wants an alternative – and Venezuela has initiated this alternative.

In the meantime, Russia and Iran have also announced the introduction of a government-owned cryptocurrency. They are formidable shields against US-dollar intrusion and interference. Government-owned and managed cryptocurrencies are, in fact, master tools for an approach of “Economic Resistance” against economic sanctions. Russia is way ahead of the pack. As President Putin said already two years ago, the sanctions were the best thing that could have happened to Russia, which was economically devastated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sanctions allowed Russia to promote self-sufficiency, rebuild agriculture and her outdated industrial park, put new energy and savvy into research and development, and actually become in the last three years the world’s first wheat exporter.

Similar approaches are already happening large-scale by other nations, subject to Washington’s sanctions regime; i.e., Iran, Cuba, North Korea and, of course, China. Independence from the western economy also means moving away from globalization and especially the globalized US-dollar hegemony. Venezuela is the vanguard of a slowly growing movement of countries that have already abandoned the use of the US-dollar for international trade, like India, Pakistan, Iran. This growing trend may become a groundswell of independent nations, that may bring the US economy to its knees. It is a war without aggression, but with alternatives for circumventing economic hostilities from Washington, from the US led attempts to subjugate the world to the dollar dictate; i.e., to US-dollar hegemony. The resistance movement shall overcome.

First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Venezuelan Elections: Chavismo Still in Power, US Still Belligerent, Media Still Dishonest

Voters waiting in line in Catia, a popular neighbourhood in Western Caracas (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

In a climate of dire economic war/crisis and foreign aggression, Venezuelans took to the polls to elect their president and regional legislative councils. Chavismo won big in both contests, with president Maduro securing a second term until 2025. The international reaction from the US and its allies was already pre-scripted, and the dishonest coverage from the mainstream media was also to be expected. We take a look at the election, how the electoral system works, these reactions, and also share some observations after witnessing events on the ground.

*****

Incumbent president Nicolás Maduro won in a landslide, taking nearly 68% of the vote, while his closest rival Henry Falcón could only muster 21%. With all the votes tallied, Maduro totalled a little over 6.2M votes. Amidst a devastating economic crisis and increasing imperialist aggression this is a very significant victory, but it nevertheless falls very short of previous totals in chavista victories, and very short of the 10M votes that Maduro “demanded” during the campaign.1 Falcón had distinguished himself by defying the mainstream opposition’s call for boycotting the elections, only to fall back to the familiar tune of not recognising the results after losing.

Participation in these elections was just 46%. This number was historically low… for Venezuela! In the most recent presidential elections in Chile and Colombia, to name just two examples, participation was respectively of 49 and 48%, and nobody even floated the possibility of questioning their legitimacy. So if the low turnout is going to be mentioned, it should only be because Venezuela is (rightly) held to a higher standard than the regional US allies.

We had the chance to witness the electoral process on the ground as a member of the international accompaniment mission (acompañante electoral), alongside the Venezuelanalysis team. Our observations pretty much mirrored what the results would later show. Popular and working-class neighbourhoods (barrios), such as Catia, El Valle or Petare, had a very decent turnout, starting from the early morning hours. By contrast, voting centres in middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods such as El Paraiso and Chacao, traditional opposition strongholds, had very few people.

Maduro giving his victory speech in Miraflores palace (Photo: Prensa Presidencial)

The electoral system

Given the amount of attention dedicated to Venezuela’s voting system, you would think that the media would be compelled to at least explain how it works, but, of course, that would undermine all the half-truths and outright lies that are published. So, for the umpteenth time, here is how it works:

  • The voter goes into the polling station (each voting centre can have several polling stations (mesas electorales)) and hands their ID to the station president, who enters it into the authentication system. The voter then introduces their fingerprint to verify. Should they be at the wrong voting centre, or have already voted, an error message will appear and they cannot proceed. (Step 1, lower left corner, in the picture below)
  • The next step is the voting booth. The voter will pick their preference on a touchscreen display, and the choice will appear on the voting machine screen. If this is correct, they confirm the vote. The machine then prints a paper receipt with the vote, and if this matches the vote just entered, the voter deposits it in a box. (Steps 2 and 3 in the picture)
  • Finally the voter goes to another member of the polling station who hands them back their ID, and then signs and introduces their fingerprint in the appropriate spot in the electoral roll. (Step 4 in the picture)
  • Once the voting closes the voting machine prints an act (acta) with the final tally of results, to be signed by all members of the polling station and electoral witnesses. The number of voters, for example, can be immediately checked against the number of signatures in the electoral roll or the number of fingerprints registered in the authentication machine. Then 54% of polling stations are randomly chosen for a “hot audit”, which is open to the public and members of the international accompaniment mission (acompañantes electorales), whereby the paper ballots are manually checked against the electronic result. And once all this is done, the data is transmitted to the CNE headquarters.

Depiction of the voting process, called the “electoral horseshoe” in the CNE logistics and production centre in Mariches. See above for a detailed description. Step 5 (indeleble ink) is no longer used since the authentication system prevents multiple voting. (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

This is not the whole story, as there are also plenty of audits (14 in this case) done before the elections, with members of all political parties of the international accompaniment mission present, and after the election. But just this short explanation shows you why you cannot just stuff ballots (the vote is electronic), you cannot vote more than once (authentication system will not let you and the electoral roll total will not match), you cannot just enter more votes into the machine remotely (the machines are offline except for the final transmission of results, plus the match against the paper ballots would fail), etc.

More than that, members of the hundreds-strong international accompaniment mission on the ground have praised the Venezuelan electoral process as free and fair. Nicanor Moncoso, president of the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (Ceela), insisted that the results must be recognised because they reflect the will of the people.

Ridiculous claims of fraud and irregularities

The existence of all these checks and audits is the reason why in over 20 elections, with constant cries of fraud whenever the opposition loses, no one has produced a single shred of evidence of fraud2,3, although that has not stopped the media from repeating these claims uncritically over and over. Given that in each of the thousands of voting centres the polling station members are chosen randomly and opposition witnesses are present, and they all sign an act at the end confirming that everything is in order, to claim there was fraud without anything to back it up is to take your supporters/listeners/readers for idiots.

One of the most widespread allegations meant to undermine the legitimacy of the process was that someone from the CNE told Reuters that by 6 PM participation was just 32.3%. This is a pure fabrication, as any of the hundreds of acompañantes who were on the ground could have told any of these outlets if asked. Simply put, the CNE does not publish preliminary data because it does not have access to it. Only when when all the audits (to 54% of voting centres) have been completed and a sizeable number of voting centres have transmitted their numbers, so as to make the results irreversible, are the figures made available.

So this claim might as well have been made by the Queen of England. It is akin to writing a headline “caveman source claims that the Earth is flat” when the Earth’s curvature has been measured. It is giving credence to random allegations about a number that has actually been measured and audited. And going back to what we said before, given such a large discrepancy and the large number of people involved, surely there would be ONE piece of evidence about ONE voting centre where the final tally had supposedly been inflated.

In the absence of hard evidence to back up fraud claims, the discourse is shifted towards other “irregularities”. While this is just small sample hearsay, opposition electoral witnesses did not report any irregularities when talking to us, although they did expect a low turnout from opposition voters. Some did complain that the puntos rojos were closer than the stipulated 200m, but laughed at the notion that voters would change their mind or be turned into zombies by the sight of red canopies. In fact, these puntos rojos have been present in elections for the past 20 years, and used to have their opposition-coloured counterparts across the street.

These places mostly serve as gathering points as people wait for the voting to unfold, and more importantly to track participation from their ranks, to see if further mobilising is necessary or not. The notion that these were a factor in the results, embraced hysterically by Falcón and his team and then echoed by the media, reeks of desperation. Other complaints, such as assisted voting (people helping elderly voters) irregularities were also insignificant in terms of their relevance for the final numbers.

A menacing punto rojo/red point in Petare! (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

International reaction

The international reaction was no surprise because it was already pre-determined before the elections. Such is the absurdity and dishonesty when it comes to Venezuela. And at this point it makes no sense to distinguish the reaction of the US State Department and the ones from its multiple echo chambers, be they spineless allies like the self-appointed Lima Group and the EU or the propaganda outlets of the mainstream media.

After the opposition MUD delegation walked away from the negotiating table with a deal already hammered out (according to former Spanish PM and mediator Zapatero), allegedly under US orders, the US quickly moved to announce that the elections would be fraudulent and illegitimate, its results not recognised, and all the usual suspects followed suit. And that is precisely what happened after Maduro’s victory, with people who claim to be champions of democracy vowing to punish Venezuela for the unforgivable crime of holding elections.

We have dedicated plenty of efforts to deconstructing the mainstream media propaganda surrounding Venezuela, and elections in particular, but it feels more and more like a waste of time. People that truly want to be informed about Venezuela should simply look for sources that do more than repeat the State Department talking points or uncritically echo the allegations of the Venezuelan opposition. FAIR did an excellent job of pointing out how even the MSM headlines have become unanimous, with “amid” their new favourite preposition. It is fair to say that amid so much propaganda, there is very little actual journalism left.

It would serve us well to go back a few months to the Honduran elections. Here there was actually plenty of evidence of fraud, which allowed for an irreversible trend to be reversed in order for the US-backed incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández to secure victory. Despite a few protests and some tame calls for holding new elections, the fraudulent winner was eventually recognised and it is now business as usual. Believe it or not, Honduras is part of this Lima Group that has the nerve to question the legitimacy of the Venezuelan elections.

Had the reaction been just this shameful bombast it would not be much of a problem. But it came followed by the tightening of the economic noose around Venezuela; i.e., new sanctions. The latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration again fell short of an oil embargo, which has been increasingly floated by US officials, but targeted Venezuela’s and PDVSA’s ability to collect and re-finance debt.

After the sanctions and all the meddling, Maduro reacted by expelling the two top US diplomats in Caracas. Nevertheless we can expect the screws to be further tightened as the US and its followers show no signs of backing down from their regime-change crusade, and imposing as much suffering on the Venezuelan people as possible is their way to go. For all the sanctimonious claims that sanctions are only meant to hurt those-corrupt-officials-who-have-hijacked-democracy, we can thank British FM Boris Johnson for his clumsy honesty:

The feeling I get from talking to my counterparts is that they see no alternative to economic pressure – and it’s very sad because obviously the downside of sanctions is that they can affect the population that you don’t want to suffer.

So from an international perspective the elections did not change much, perhaps accelerating the aggression we had been seeing. But on the inside the picture is different. There were very clear signs, whether the loud cries from those who voted or the loud silence from those who did not, that the current economic situation needs to be dealt with, and fast. We already know what the solution would be if the right-wing returned to power, electorally or otherwise. The question is whether amidst this international siege the Bolivarian government has enough resources and political will to radicalise their path.

  1. We hope to go into a more detailed analysis of the political situation and the challenges ahead in an upcoming article.
  2. Perhaps we should clarify that no credible evidence has been produced. After the 2013 elections defeated candidate Capriles produced a dossier of “evidence” that was mercilessly torn to shreds, because none of it held any water.
  3. A possible notable exception was the gubernatorial election in the State of Bolívar this past October. Defeated candidate Andrés Velázquez published alleged acts that differed from the results on the CNE website, but this matter was not pressed further, perhaps because it undermined all the other unproven fraud claims.

Amidst Threats and Defiance, Venezuelans head to the Polls

Closing rally of the Maduro campaign (Photo: Presidential Press)

May 17 marked the end of the political campaign for the upcoming presidential and legislative council elections that will take place on Sunday May 20. In Caracas, in the traditional rally-holding place in Avenida Bolívar, Nicolás Maduro gave his closing campaign speech, surrounded by a large crowd that had mobilised in the early hours of the morning and converged from multiple locations in Caracas.

In his speech, Maduro reiterated some of the main tenets of his campaign: the promise to take on the economic “mafias” and to bring forth an “economic revolution”1, the rejection of foreign interference in Venezuelan affairs, and a call for participation in the upcoming elections. He also renewed a call for dialogue addressed to all sectors of Venezuelan society.

This final rally brought the curtain on a campaign that saw Maduro all over the country, supported by what has become an impressive electoral machine, with a big ability to mobilise people. Multiple sectors inside the heterogeneous chavismo also voiced their support for Maduro. Even groups that have kept a critical line with regard to government policy in recent times have it clear that only a Maduro victory can guarantee the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution and the possibility to continue the struggle for socialism.

Maduro delivering his final campaign speech (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

The two main opposition candidates on 20M are Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci (out of the other two initially running, Reinaldo Quijada is expected to have a very small showing and Luis Ratti joined Falcón). For a while the possibility of a unified front with a single candidate hung in the air, but did not materialise in the end, which makes Maduro the favourite for the upcoming vote.

Henry Falcón “disobeyed” instructions and threats from the US and the main opposition parties of the MUD, stepping forward as a candidate. His main proposal is to dollarise the economy, as well as appeal to instances such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for support. However, with the main anti-chavista figures and parties insisting in their non-recognition of the elections and calling on people to stay away, he will find it hard to mobilise the middle class, which historically has been the core anti-chavista vote.

While Falcón focused mainly on holding meetings and press events, evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci made use of his experience and mobilising capacity to hold a few massive events on the streets. Bertucci refused to step out of the race in favour of Falcón, believing (or having us believe) that he is in a better position than his rival. In any case, his arrival on the political scene is surely with a view beyond these elections, looking to capitalise on the disastrous decisions of the opposition in the recent past to present himself as a political alternative in the future, in a similar fashion to what has been seen with evangelical movements in other Latin American countries.

Main opposition candidates Henri Falcón (left) and Javier Bertucci (right) (Photos from respective twitter accounts)

These elections arrive with Venezuela suffering from a deep crisis and growing economic war. Prices have skyrocketed in recent months, and the government response through salary increases and bonuses has failed to keep up with inflation, resulting in a very difficult reality for ordinary Venezuelans. There is also an important international dimension to this. The US empire, and its loyal allies, have been ramping up the attacks against Venezuela, for example, barring all access to credit or making it more difficult to pay for imports.

Along these lines, the US and its echo chamber, the Lima Group, have railed against these elections, arrogantly demanding they be suspended and announcing, months in advance, that they would not be legitimate and that they would not recognise the results2,3 This is simply a consequence of the fact that an anti-chavista victory was far from certain. After a growing wave of violence in the first half of 2017, chavismo responded with remarkable strength, achieving peace with the Constituent Assembly elections and then going on to win regional and municipal elections. In light of all this, the decision was to abandon the electoral route and look for a different “regime change” avenue.

Giant Chávez puppet during the closing Maduro rally (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

Taking all of this into account, the 20M elections are a key moment in the history of Venezuela and Latin America. A chavista defeat would imply a massive setback for the left in Latin America, and it would bring about a merciless onslaught against poor and working-class Venezuelans. But at the same time a Maduro victory will be greeted with even greater imperialist hostility, with further sanctions and an eventual oil embargo on the horizon.

All of this does not discard that there are important choices and changes to be made in terms of government policy, especially in what concerns the repeated appeals, always followed by preferential dollars or credit, to private businessmen, so that they will produce or import. At the end of the day the strength and creativity of the pueblo are the only resource that really matters, and the mobilisation in defence of the revolution, even in the difficult current circumstances, show that the political conscience that was built is perhaps the most important achievement of the past 20 years. And it shows that there is no way forward except to radicalise the revolution. There is a tough battle coming up on May 20, and then another one the following day.

  1. With plenty of goodwill we can grant that a strong electoral showing will give Maduro some backing to implement tough measures, but on the other one cannot help but wonder why these tough measures were not put into place in recent months and years.
  2. Trying to out-Trump his master, Colombian president Santos announced that he was aware of a months-long evil plan by the Venezuelan “regime” to register and transport hundreds of thousands of Colombians and have them vote!
  3. Here we also have to wonder what the “recognition” from the US and its followers is actually worth. We only have to go back a few months to the Honduran elections, where there was a blatant display of fraud, and nevertheless results were “recognised”.

Communes and Workers’ Control in Venezuela

“Nobody surrenders here! Commune or nothing!” – a mural depicting Chávez and the commitment to building the commune (Photo: Venezuelanalysis)

“The communes should be the space in which we are going to give birth to socialism.” – these were the words of Hugo Chávez in one of his famous presidential broadcasts. To discuss the Venezuelan communes and the new forms of participation, as well as its successes, difficulties and contradictions, we have interviewed Dario Azzellini*. He has investigated and documented theses issues throughout the Bolivarian Revolution. His book Communes and Workers’ Control in Venezuela has recently been released in paperback by Haymarket Books.

*****

Ricardo Vaz: In your book you talk about a “two-track process” in Venezuela, from above and from below. Can you explain this?

Dario Azzellini: Traditionally, some people have a vision that change is coming from above, so you have to take over state power and the government and then you change everything from above. Others disagree and defend that you have to do everything from the bottom-up and the grassroots, and overcome the state.

I think Venezuela shows that the state is there, whether you want it or not. It does not go away if you ignore it. On the other hand, we also have the experience that if you try to change something from above without having the self-organised structures in society to sustain it, then the conscience of people is not really changed and everything can fall apart like a house of cards a few seconds after you lose state power.

A characteristic feature of a few recent processes in Latin America, and in Venezuela especially, with all their difficulties and contradictions, has been the combination between certain kinds of changes and reforms from above with a strong self-organisation on the ground. Also if we look at it, especially in Venezuela, many of the proposals that were successful, from the recuperated workplaces to the local self-administrations of communal councils and communes, were things that were created by the people, at the bottom, and then picked up by Chávez and turned into government policies.

Chávez visiting the El Maizal commune in 2009 (Photo: Minci)

The “two-track” approach means that you have at the same time these efforts for change from above and from below. From a logic standpoint, you can have a bottom-up logic in some state institutions as you can also have a hierarchical top-down conception in some of the grassroots movements. So it is more complicated than it seems.

RV: What are the contradictions that emerge?

DA: There are strong contradictions.  It still is a constant relationship of cooperation and conflict. Because these are two completely contradictory logics, even if they declare to pursue the same objectives.

The logic of an institution is always to measure everything with statistics, whereas the social logic is often not measurable in statistics. When I was working in Venezuela with communal councils, you could have the communities, for instance, starting to meet once a week to watch a film together and then discuss. Or they could start cooperating with the adjacent community council on some common issues, maybe solving some conflict that had long existed between the communities (and nobody remembers why!).

At the same time, from an institutional standpoint, a government body or a ministry that is responsible for the construction of these communal councils, has to prove its worth to the next institutional level, it has to measure something. Watching a film or cooperating with the neighbouring community cannot be fit into any statistic. But if this community builds 2 kms of a new asphalt road, then it is great! We can report the 2 kms of road, the cubic meters of asphalt needed, and the money spent, to show they have been doing something. However, from a social and political logic, it is much more valuable to watch a film or cooperate with the other community.

The logic of the institution is always a logic of representation and it is always questioning any non-representational body even if they formally agree with it. Someone sitting in an institution, who has to explain to his boss and institution what he has been doing, is weary of letting the people decide. What if the people decide wrong!? Thus he may feel inclined to decide himself what is best. You have these contradictory logics all the time.

Moreover, there is the contradiction of a power asymmetry. The institutions control the finances and have privileged access to media and other institutional levels. Therefore this power asymmetry has to be taken into account.

The hillside barrios surrounding Caracas have a long tradition of popular organisation (Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/Venezuelanalysis)

RV: What about situations in which the state was (at least in principle) on one side, like struggles for workers’ control?

DA: You still find these contradictions at play in cases like workplace occupations. For instance, workers would occupy a given company, and an institution that was very eager to support them would come in immediately, and after two weeks expropriate the workplace. But the workers did not have the time to form a collective, to grow in the struggle, to really figure out what they want.

This expropriated workplace would then hardly ever make it into a self-organised, worker-controlled workplace, because it could not grow organically. At the same time the institution that intervened or the new administration might have no interest in surrendering control to the workers, or even actively sabotage and hinder workers’ control. And once the workers’ councils were introduced, they tried to undermine them, co-opt them, or reduce them to consulting bodies without any real power, while workers fought and still fight for workers’ participation and control.

So that is why I say it is a constant logic of conflict and cooperation between these two: between the constituent power (workers, grassroots movements, etc.) and the constituted power (state institutions). And that is the motor of history.

Therefore with all the problems that have plagued recent Latin American processes, due to pressures from the outside, from the right, from the inside, from mistakes that were made, etc., what happened over the past 20 years has the imprint of both the constituent and constituted power. And it is based on the friction between these two powers.

RV: It is interesting that we are used to seeing class struggle for the state or outside the state, but here it is somehow brought into the institutions…

DA: It is both inside and outside. We could say it is “inside, outside, with, against and beyond” the state and the institutions! Which is really complicated and contradictory. We have to keep in mind that these are (at best) bourgeois institutions, so their tendency is to assimilate and co-opt everything, not to build socialism or participation, obviously. Therefore it is a very complicated and contradictory struggle, which has been an important element in countries like Venezuela.

In countries that are built around very few extractive industries, oil in the Venezuelan case, class struggle has not been direct but mostly about access to the state, which was the big distributor of the oil rent. This was true even before Chávez. You had private capitalists trying to get as much money as possible, while workers also directed their demands to the state. After 1998, with the election of Chávez, this struggle was moved also inside the state and it is still there.

Meeting of the national network of communes in 2011 (Photo: Red Nacional de Comuneros)

Unfortunately I think that huge pressure from the outside is silencing too many contradictions and struggles. In a moment when the threat from the outside is so strong many of the movements who would have critiques to voice have to close ranks. Because obviously if the opposition takes back power, or if the US intervenes militarily, directly or using Colombia as a proxy (which I think is more probable), then there is not even a chance to have these discussions because everything in the Bolivarian Revolution would be eliminated.

RV: Let us make a little detour. Whenever Venezuela is discussed in the media, or even within leftist circles, the focus is never on these struggles, or the new models of participation that we will get to, but always on the supposed shortcomings from the perspective of “liberal democracy.” But in the book you argue that this is not the proper, or the more relevant, “yardstick”. Why is that?

DA: The Bolivarian Revolution is a result of the failure of liberal democracy. This is not specific to Venezuela, liberal democracy has been a failure everywhere. We have seen in the recent past millions of people out on the streets because they think that liberal democracy is not democratic. All the new movements, progressive or leftist, that we have seen emerging, are a result of the non-democratic nature and the failures of liberal democracy. And the same is true for the right-wing populist movements we see in Europe, or in the US with Trump.

Even the term “liberal democracy” is a contradiction in itself, because we should remember that liberalism and democracy were two opposites. They had been fighting each other for hundreds of years. Liberal democracy came to be when the liberals managed to exclude from the democratic process the economic and social spheres, thus reducing participation to the political sphere through the act of voting for representation. Therefore liberal democracy has, in fact, very little to do with democracy.

The starting point for Venezuela and most of the movements in Latin America is the failure of liberal democracy, the failure of allowing for social advances, the failure of improving people’s lives, the failure of being democratic, the failure of making people feel that they have a say. If this is the starting point, we cannot be criticising or measuring what is happening with liberal democracy as the yardstick. Liberal democracy is what has to be overcome.

Chávez speaking at the closing of the 2012 presidential campaign (Photo: AVN)

RV: From the very start of the Bolivarian Revolution, and with the 1999 Constitution, there is a new emphasis on participation and protagonist democracy and there are several experiments, some successful, others not so much, until you arrive at the communal councils. Why were the communal councils the first ones to really succeed?

DA: From the very early 2000s the Bolivarian government was already thinking about mechanisms of popular participation in institutional decisions. The first examples mirrored experiments that existed in other places, like the participatory budgets. Then they started with experiments of creating bodies to bring together institutional (e.g. the municipalities) and grassroots representatives. And these failed, because those were still largely representative bodies with a very clear power inequality or asymmetry, like I described before. This made it impossible to have any kind of grassroots autonomy or decision-making.

These difficulties were not exclusive to opposition mayors or municipalities, they also happened with chavista ones. The communal councils were the first attempt to separate these structures as much as possible.1  A communal council is the assembly of a self-chosen territory. In urban areas it comprises 150-200 families or living units, in rural areas 20-30 and in indigenous areas, that are even less densely populated, 10-20, and they decide themselves what is the territory of the community. The communal council is the assembly of all people of the community that decides on all matters.

The communal councils form workgroups for different issues, depending on their needs: infrastructure, water, sports, culture, etc., and these workgroups elaborate proposals that are then voted by the community assembly to establish what is more important. Then they get the projects financed through public institutions. The financing structure that was created was no longer attached to the representative institutions at a local level, which would have brought them into this direct, unequal competition I had mentioned. Instead it was situated at a national or at least regional levels. And this created a possibility to have a more community-centred, more independent, projecting and decision-making.

Forming a communal council in the El Manicomio neighbourhood of Caracas (Photo: Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas/Venezuelanalysis)

RV: How many communal councils are there in Venezuela? And how do we get to the communes?

DA: Nowadays there are formally 47.000 communal councils. Obviously that is a huge number and I do not sincerely think that all of them work as democratic popular assemblies. There will be many of them that probably do not really work, especially with the economic crisis. Others will be driven by a few activists that have the support but not the active participation of the community, while many others are really working as community assemblies.

The next step was the creation of communes, which again started by self-deciding on the territory. They do not have to correspond to the official territorial divisions. They can stretch across different municipalities or even states. For example, in the outskirts of Caracas you have communities that formally belong to the state of Vargas on the coast, but because of the cordillera they do not even have a road connecting them to Vargas. Their infrastructure and cultural links are with the city of Caracas, so they form communes together with communities that are officially part of Caracas.

Communes in urban areas are usually made up of 25-40 communal councils, and in rural areas between 6-10 or 15. It depends. And also have the participation not only of the different community councils but also of other organisations existing in the territory. These may be peasant organisations, or the community radio, or organisations like the Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora. All organisations existing in the territory take part in the assemblies of the commune.

RV: How do the communes function?

DA: The commune is again only a place to coordinate proposals and take them further. The basic decisions are still taken in the communal councils. And the next step beyond that would be a communal city, which would not necessarily be structured as a city, but rather it is made up of different communes. There are a few communal cities, even if there is still no law about them!

This is a familiar pattern. The communal councils started being built from below, with different names, some even had institutional backing, and no law regulating them. Then Chávez saw these assemblies and named them communal councils, and by the time the law was drafted in 2006 there were already some 5000 of these councils running. The same thing happened with the communes. They started to be built exist because the communities needed a bigger structure to decide on bigger projects, and by the time the law of communes was passed there were already hundreds of them in existence.

And they had to pressure the institutions to recognise them and register them officially as communes, because during the first years the institutions were declaring all communes as “communes under construction”. From an institutional logic, it is in their interest to declare as many communes as possible as needing their support. Once a commune is declared as functioning that is no longer the case. So in the end the communes needed to force the institutions to register them.

Schematic depiction of the communes (Photo: Ministry of Communes)

RV: And how many communes exist nowadays?

DA: Now there are around 1600 registered communes. Again, as with the communal councils, I would say they fall into three groups. Some are not really functioning after state support disappeared because of the crisis, others keep on functioning because of some well-organised activists that do the heavy lifting, with the support of the communities but without the assemblies meeting regularly, and other ones that are still functioning well.

One thing that I would definitely say is that the communes that are working are the structures that are being more successful in confronting problems that people are facing. There are interesting experiments with huge community controlled production facilities, or closed-down workplaces that were taken over by the community and the workers to set up all kinds of production. During this very difficult crisis, that strains social networks by pushing people to more individualism. These things are very relevant.

RV: What has been the role of women in these participatory bodies?

DA: Women have been the driving force. In the community councils, especially in urban areas, I would say over 70% of the people taking responsibility and pushing the struggle are women. There are many reasons for this. On one hand the rentier model of Venezuela has generated lots of speculative and informal activities that do not always supply regular work, and this naturally becomes worse in times of economic difficulties. But while this affects men mostly, women retain the experience of regular work because of all the other responsibilities (children, domestic work, etc.).

Therefore women are very much the centre of the household, and the centre of community life. This also has historical roots. If you read anthropological literature, in Caribbean societies like Venezuela, the trans-Atlantic slave trade implied that men were sold more often, and thus women were the more stable part of slave society. This is some kind of late consequence of that, reinforced by the long-standing economic model.

RV: One of the features that you mentioned is that the communal councils and the communes emerged from the bottom-up and then there was legislation to follow. This contrasts a bit with the (media-pushed) perception that somehow everything was happening via a Chávez decree…

DA: I think that one of Chávez’s extraordinary capacities was that he was able to pick up what the people were doing, and what was working, and then function as a kind of loudspeaker! He would propagate these things that he saw as being successful, something that political scientists might call “good practices”, and make them widely known. And obviously because he was so charismatic and people trusted him, he was able to make them immediately discussed and propagated, so they would expand.

So contrary to the general perception like you say, most initiatives that Chávez launched and were successful, succeeded because they were practices that the people were doing already. He broadened them, made them better known and helped them expand, and at a certain point gave them a legal standing. This, of course, is not exclusive to Venezuela. For example, the workers of Rimaflow in Italy2 used to discuss how every law favouring workers in Italy came into being after the practice already existed, after different struggles and strikes had already forced them into place. So even in what can be considered as a favourable context like Venezuela, these “good practices” are often implemented first and later made legal.

Corn harvest in El Maizal (Photo: Prensa El Maizal)

RV: On the larger issue of the communes, Chávez stressed very often that communes were the “Venezuelan way to socialism”. How do communes help us reach socialism?

DA: Well, according to Marx, the commune is the finally discovered political form to emancipate labour.3 It is a step of decentralisation, of local self-government, that is connected to workers’ and community control, which is very important as a step towards socialism. It makes it possible to create different values, to create a different consciousness from the bottom-up, to create a self-organisation oriented towards the collective advancement of people in communities beyond capitalism.

The communes allow for a tendential overcoming of the separation between political, economic and social spheres, turning more resources into commons, to be managed by the community. (I say tendential because this is still a parallel structure amidst still existing representative, institutional structures, and capitalism in general.) This is what socialism was in the imagination of Karl Marx and many others.

RV: Can we see these advances of these participatory forms of democracy in a more global context, connected to the failure of liberal democracy that we discussed before?

DA: Indeed. The last huge uproar of council socialism were the workers’ councils in the early 20th century. After that the model of representation also took grip of the left and the communist movements, imposing itself as the hegemonic model even for socialist transformations.

So these currents become a minority while the Fordist model of production also reflected itself in an imagination of socialism as a representative, top-down paradigm. Now that Fordism is exhausted as a production model, liberal democracy as the political model serving Fordism is also at its limits. We should remember that the rights gained were not because of liberal democracy. They were forced on liberal democracy, they were won in struggle. For a while it was possible to push and advance progressive struggles within the framework of liberal democracy, but now it is clearly no longer the case.

This is the reason why we are witnessing a resurgence of socialist/communist/anarchist ideas, whatever you want to call them, models of self-administration, of council democracy, of self-organised socialism. The first internationally visible case was the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, we saw it in Venezuela like we have been discussing, but also in places like Argentina, Bolivia or even Kurdistan, always in different forms. We saw it in the workplace recuperations that occurred worldwide, we saw it in Occupy Wall Street and 15M, in Gezi and Tahrir, as well as plenty of other cases that we barely heard about, for example in Africa.

In summary I would definitely say that there is a resurgence of these concepts and ideas of socialism based on direct, council democracy, on self-management, on self-organisation – on this long history of people themselves organising their lives.

President Maduro meeting with comuneros in 2015 (Photo: Prensa Presidencial)

RV: Going back to the Venezuelan communes, one of the discussions/debates within this spirit of conflict and cooperation with the state is that once you create a Ministry for Communes, there is a risk that they start being seen as just a sector of society, and not as something that is supposed to replace the state in the long run…

DA: That is exactly one of the problems. Chávez was very clear about the idea of the council democracy replacing the institutional framework, and he coined this term of the “communal state“. Which is a bit of an oxymoron, because if it is communal it is not a state anymore! But this is a long-standing confusion in the whole socialist and communist movement. For example, Marx insisted that the Paris Commune was not a state at all, but a government, while the council communists of the early 20th century were mainly arguing that council democracy is not government (some of them later called it a proletarian state).

Chávez insisted and was adamant that the communes should at some point overcome the bourgeois state. It is not that clear whether the same view is held among government officials and institutional actors in the rest of Venezuela, there are many that see the communes as a kind of permanent parallel structure to the representative bodies.

RV: And at the local level there are often conflicts with the communes, which may be seen as a threat…

DA: Yes, definitely. Local and regional administrations are very often in conflict with the communes because they see them as a direct threat, and they are a direct threat! That is the point of the whole thing! They are representing structures that have to be overcome by the communal system. Of course politically they are supposed support it and not fight it, but this goes back to the clash between the participatory/communal and representational logics that I talked about before.

RV: Let us talk about workers’ control, which is a subject that you discuss in great detail in the book. How did this logic of conflict and cooperation affect the struggles for workers’ control, for example, in the basic industries in the state of Bolívar?

DA: It affected them in a very problematic way. The whole workers’ control struggle in Bolívar, in the heavy industries (aluminium, iron, steel), did not advance at all. Through the years there were a lot of efforts, but eventually they stalled, while at the same time the production also did not really advance. Corruption and sabotage involving local power structures, institutional resistance, and contradictions within the workers’ movement doomed the struggle to failure. The basic industries are in a really troubling situation today.

In other cases, like state-owned Lácteos Los Andes (a big milk, yoghurt and juice producer) and in Aceites Diana (the biggest margarine and oil producer) there were strong workers’ struggles in 2013, and as a result the government agreed that the gradual workers’ control would be introduced, but still the question did not advance. There have been successes on a smaller scale, for example, production facilities that have been taken over by workers together with communes. There is Proletarios Uníos, which used to be the Brazilian Brahma Beer producer. They are now bottling drinking water from a deep well. They have also set up animal food production, all in cooperation with the surrounding communes, for example, exchanging with another worker-controlled facility that raises chickens.

Workers’ assembly at Alcasa aluminium plant (Photo: Prensa CVG Alcasa)

RV: To conclude, there is a very clear economic crisis and economic war in Venezuela today. Where does that leave the model of communes and workers’ control? Is it still the way forward?

DA: I would say yes. With all the problems and contradictions that exist, the “new Venezuela” of the people, the new idea of socialism, of collectivism, is being developed in the communes and the communal councils and the recuperated workplaces. And this is not just an academic debate. We should remember, for example, that during the oil sabotage or lockout of 2002-03, the heavy industries and the oil industry were saved by workers taking control. The organised workers and communities have always offered the staunchest defence of the Bolivarian Revolution.

But obviously with the economic crisis and the death of Chávez the current context is not favourable for the communes and for workers’ control. A few years ago there might have been an expectation that the government would solve everything, but nowadays most grassroots organisations, movements and communes are convinced that they are the ones that will have to build socialism. They support the government in avoiding a military intervention, fighting against the financial blockade and economic war, they understand that they need to close ranks otherwise even the possibility of discussing more structural changes will disappear. But they do not expect any significant steps towards socialism to be taken from above. Rather, they hope to be afforded the space to keep building socialism from below.

* Dario Azzellini is a sociologist, political scientist, author and documentary filmmaker. He has worked and written extensively on the issue of workers’ control and self-government. Together with Oliver Ressler he has produced two documentaries about Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela from below and Commune under construction. His latest book on Venezuela, Communes and Workers’ Control in Venezuela. Building 21st Century Socialism from Below, has recently been released in paperback. More information on his work can be found on his website.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. On this matter Chávez said “[…] a grave error was committed, the communal councils cannot be converted into extensions of the mayoralties […]. That would be to kill them […] before they were born.” (Aló Presidente 246).
  2. A former manufacturer of air-conditioning pipes for BMW in Milan, Rimaflow was taken over by the workers when abandoned by the owner and now engages in a number of activities, from recycling industrial pallets to producing artisanal liquor. For more, see our previous interview with Dario Azzellini, or the documentary “Occupy, Resist, Produce” (by Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler).
  3. Karl Marx described the Paris Commune in these terms: “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour.

US State Department no Longer wants Elections in Venezuela

Anti-imperialist mural in Caracas (Photo: Venezuelanalysis)

With presidential elections announced in Venezuela, the US State Department moved quickly to declare that the contest was illegitimate and that its results would not be recognised. But less than a year ago the tune was quite different, as a cursory look through State Department briefings and press releases will show. We also examine how political developments from the past year have led to the current scenario, and how US demands for “free and fair” elections are not only arrogant and hypocritical but also misleading.

*****

We begin by taking a look at what the US State Department was constantly saying less than a year ago. We could equally document the statements of the OAS and its secretary Luis Almagro, the Venezuelan opposition, US-allied regional governments, or the mainstream media. But it is easier to just go to the source. Sadly, when it comes to Venezuela, none of the mainstream actors and media will deviate from the State Department.

As violent opposition protests raged on in the Spring of 2017, there were repeated calls for immediate elections:

“President Maduro […] should hold elections as soon as possible.” (March 29)

“We call for the government of Venezuela to […] hold elections as soon as possible” (March 30)

“We […] echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections” (April 10)

“We call again upon the Government of Venezuela to […] hold prompt elections” (April 18)

“It’s the Venezuelan people who should decide Venezuela’s future, which is why we once again call on the Venezuelan authorities to promptly hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” (May 2)

“…what people are asking for today, which is for national presidential elections to restore legitimacy to whomever might rule Venezuela moving forward.” (May 30)

“The United States has joined with a growing number of courageous 1 democracies in our region to urge the Venezuelan Government to hold free elections” (June 20)          

US officials were adamant that elections were the only legitimate way forward.

“How is legitimacy defined in a democracy? Through elections.” (May 30)

“At the end of the day, it’s all about consensus. It’s about finding a way forward for Venezuelans to depolarize their situation, and the best way to do that is through elections.” (May 30)

“Venezuela needs consensus. It needs a genuine consensus or at least a legitimate path forward. That’s what elections provide.” (June 19)

So what happened since then to make the US no longer believe that elections should be held tomorrow? Maduro made a bold gambit of calling elections for a Constituent Assembly to solve the country’s problems. The Venezuelan opposition decided not to participate and vowed to stop those elections from taking place. They miserably failed, and on July 30 over 8 million people voted in what was a remarkable show of strength by chavismo.

From that point both the opposition and the US were trapped, unable to move on from their blunder. And soon cracks started to open. After months of violent protests claiming that the “dictatorship” was about to be overthrown, the opposition then turned to its supporters and asked them to go and vote in regional elections. The result was a disaster, with chavismo winning 18 out of 23 states. The opposition could not muster more than the usual vacuous claims of fraud, and then (mostly) boycotted the December municipal elections, which resulted in a chavista sweep of over 90% of the municipalities.

With the political momentum on its side, the government decided to schedule presidential elections for April 22. According to Jorge Rodríguez, head of the government’s delegation in the Dominican Republic dialogue, this date was agreed with the opposition MUD representatives. But with opposition figures more discredited than ever the US decided to pre-emptively unrecognise the vote, simply because an opposition victory is far from guaranteed.Henri Falcón registering his candidacy with the electoral authorities (Photo: Correo del Orinoco)

In the end the main opposition parties followed suit in boycotting the election, but former Lara governor Henri Falcón broke ranks and registered as a candidate. The MUD promptly expelled him, and the US allegedly threatened him with sanctions to stop him from running. Ironically, as a former chavista, Falcón might be the ideal “moderate” opposition candidate to attract the votes of disaffected chavistas. But the imperial masters are past hedging their bets, they are all-in for regime change.

After talks with Falcón and the forces backing him, the vote was postponed to May 20. The MUD doubled down on their position that “there are no opposition candidates” in this election, and up to now there has been no reaction from the State Department. At the same time it is hard to read this as anything but a move to further sideline the MUD after they backed out of the dialogue to stick to the hardline coming from Washington.

“Free and fair” elections

We should also take a moment to refute the US assertions about elections not being “free and fair” and the presence of international observers. The “free and fair” demand means to discredit all previous electoral processes, whose results did not please the US. Nevertheless, as many people outside the mainstream media have explained, the Venezuelan voting system is as hard to fool as it gets. In all the elections where the opposition decided to take part they got to place their observers in every voting centre. Tens of thousands of audits took place to match the electronic and paper tallies, witnessed and approved by these opposition observers, and there has not been a single allegation of tampering with the vote count.2

We could argue that the government makes use of state resources in its political campaigns. While this would hardly be exclusive to Venezuela, we should contend that the opposition has also made use of government resources, they just happened to come from the US government through its array of NED and USAID “democracy promoting”, “civil society building” programs, and that is just the overt part of it. Complaints about media coverage are also absurd when private media has the largest share of viewership and circulation and is overwhelmingly against the government, to say nothing about international media.

The demand for international monitoring is, at best, very dishonest from the State Department. First of all, despite the opposition walking away at the 11th hour, Maduro vowed to implement what had been agreed in the Dominican Republic dialogue, which included an open invitation for international observers to come to Venezuela for the upcoming election.

But that is not to say that previous elections did not have international observers. Organisations such as the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) have been present and endorsed the procedures, as well as other observers from multiple countries, Latin American and otherwise. The problem is that they do not dance to the tune of the US State Department.

Opposition leader Julio Borges and OAS secretary General Luis Almagro (Photo: Primero Justicia)

It is absurd to claim that the presence of the OAS is a boost for fairness and transparency. We do not even have to look very far, just take the recent elections in Honduras. Massive, documented fraud allowed Juan Orlando Hernández to revert what was an irreversible trend in favour of his opponent. Having the US empire on your side will allow you to overrule statistics. This was so blatant that even the OAS and EU missions had to raise questions. But in the end Hernández was declared the winner, the State Department gave its approval and all these champions of democracy fell in line.

An even more shameful event took place in the Haiti presidential election of 2011. After the first round, the US (through the OAS), simply ordered the Haitian authorities to advance Michel Martelly to the second round, despite him not being one of the two most voted in the first round. They threatened to cut off all aid if this did not happen. So when these officials talk about the OAS as some guarantor of decency, not even they believe it themselves.

Democracy and elections

A small digression: we do not mean to equate democracy with elections like US officials constantly do in the above statements. The Venezuelan leaders have on occasion also fallen for this reductionism. Whether they believe it or not, it is the most obvious way to expose the western hypocrisy on the matter.

This reduction of democracy to voting has been one of the biggest triumphs of capitalist hegemony. People are effectively convinced that their entire political participation should be the single act of marking a cross on a ballot every 4 or 5 years. Politics is thus detached from the rest of society and “commodified” like everything else in capitalism, with campaigns becoming mere advertising shows and the wealthiest literally buying their influence.

The Bolivarian Revolution is revolutionary precisely because it challenged the inevitability of representative politics and opened new spaces for protagonist, participatory democratic experiments. From the communes to workers councils, even to the constituent processes, and despite the natural contradictions that have emerged, we have seen an expansion of democracy in its literal sense – popular power.

President Maduro registered his candidacy surrounded by thousands of supporters (Photo: Venezuelan Ministry for Communications and Information)

Hands Off Venezuela!

In the end it seems like the ideal scenario for the US would be something like the Yemeni model: a single, US-backed candidate on the ballot. With elections coming up this year in key US allied countries (Brazil, Colombia and Mexico), all of which have the potential to bring to power someone less friendly to US interests, the US cannot afford a defeat in Venezuela.

These arrogant, imperial demands that the Venezuelan elections should satisfy are just meant to provide cover for the growing threats and aggression against Venezuela, and the uncritical echo chamber that the media has become on this matter is a crucial asset. With suggestions of an upcoming oil embargo against Venezuela, at this point the goal is clearly to impose as much suffering as possible on the Venezuelans in order to topple the government.

For all its lofty rhetoric, the State Department is not looking out for the well-being of the Venezuelan people. Neither are its Venezuelan and regional puppets, nor the mainstream media, whose positions are simply State Department communiques with make-up. Standing up to these shameless imperialist attacks is essential if we wish to stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan poor and working-class, allowing them to freely choose their path, both in the upcoming elections and beyond.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. “Courageous” is not the first adjective that comes to mind regarding lapdogs.
  2. A possible exception is the gubernatorial race in the state of Bolívar last October, where some electoral acts were circulated on social media showing a mismatch with regard to the electronic totals in the CNE website. But, perhaps because it would undermine the other constant claims of fraud, the opposition did not press the case.